Yes, year 11 exams are challenging; that’s the idea

Tom Sherrington on the need for balance and pragmatism when considering school exams.

GCSE Exams: Keeping a proportionate positive perspective.
Despite the fact that we’ve been running Y11 exams in one form or another for decades, there is always a fairly strong undercurrent in the discourse around the annual exam season characterised by a sense of injustice and unreasonableness. […]

This recent article by Simon Jenkins is a classic example of this kind of anti-exam hysteria. It’s so way over the top, it’s hard to take any of the arguments seriously.

Let me restore some balance.

My son’s just about finished his year 11 exams, and I’ve been very proud of his attitude towards them. He’s really taken to heart the maxim, ‘you get out what you put in’.

In my view there is a healthy pressure and work ethic that endpoint assessments generate. As a parent I’ve been quite happy to see my kids work really hard – super hard – for several months, motivated by the desire to succeed; to be ready to do their best. I totally reject the idea that this is intrinsically unfair or unhealthy or that the kind of exam revision required to get top GCSE grades is superficial and temporary. Would our kids know more in five years’ time if they hadn’t sat their exams – no! They’d know much less. They have much greater chance of remembering knowledge having had to revise extensively. This is particularly true, for both of my children and countless students I’ve taught, because the exam revision process had yielded multiple lightbulb moments. The intensity of study suddenly brings things together that were only half understood before.

Monsters within

Studying the Middle Ages through its monsters
Artefacts such as illuminated manuscripts and tapestries are adorned with unicorns, dragons, antelopes with forked tails, blemmyes—humanoids with no heads, their faces instead on their chests—and more. These images inspire awe and a keen respect for medieval artists’ use of colour, but it is the undertones of racial and gendered prejudice that make the exhibition more than a spooky show and tell.

L. E. T. S. D. A. N. C. E.

A colorful medley of inventive type animations puts the alphabet in motion
Designer Ben Huynh submitted animated letters for each day of the open call which he combined into a short film. The video presents his three-dimensional type in the form of Mephis-style office supplies, modern furniture, and abstract neon light installations, all set to the song “Sunshine” by Gym and Swim.

36 Days of Type 05

Glasgow School of Art devastated by fire again

‘Heartbreaking’: fire guts Glasgow School of Art for the second time
She said she witnessed the fire from her flat and saw the start of the blaze in 2014. “This time around I feel numb, like ice, legs like jelly,” Sutherland said. “The fire was immense. People were dodging fist-sized flaming embers last night. All the neighbours were out; we were all worried all the roofs were going up. This area is full of architectural gems. It was terrifying last night. The smell of it and you could feel the heat of it two blocks away.” […]

“It should have been the safest building in Glasgow,” she said. “It’s so ironic that all that money was put back in to restoring the building and celebrating the Mackintosh anniversary. It’s devastating to see when you know what’s in that building.”

More photos from the scene from the Guardian.

glasgow-school-of-art-2

I went to an art school in Newport, South Wales, and they too had a fire this weekend…

All as bad as each other?

Rhett Jones from Gizmodo strikes a cautionary note about Apple’s positioning following Facebook’s recent data sharing controversies.

Apple isn’t your friend
In its own deliberate fashion, Apple appears to see a market opportunity in the privacy debate that goes beyond polishing its own image. As headlines blared about Facebook’s latest data-sharing turmoil, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has been quietly planning to launch a new advertising network for the past year. It’s said to be a re-imagining of its failed iAd network that was shuttered in 2016.

[…]

Generally, more competition is welcome. If Apple is giving Facebook and Google headaches, we say that’s great. But it’s a thorny issue when we’re talking about a few billion-dollar companies exchanging places on the ladder as they strive to be trillion-dollar companies. It’s just not enough for the least bad megacorp to keep the evil ones in check.

Drawing on the walls

From Colossal, two different approaches to getting rid of those boring, blank walls.

Scribit: the programmable robot that draws on walls (on purpose)
Invented by MIT Professor Carlo Ratti, the Scribit is a new robot drawing machine that creates text and images using erasable inks. The project’s creators bill it as a useful tool in work environments as well as an easy and interchangeable way to decorate one’s home.

Reminds me of that turtle from years ago. But perhaps you want something with a little more artistic pretentiousness?

A gigantic helium-filled and charcoal-studded sphere covers rooms with unpredictable designs
The artist describes ADA in a statement: “The globe put in action fabricates a composition of lines and points, which remain incalculable in their intensity, expression, and form however hard the visitor tries to control ADA, to drive her, to domesticate her. Whatever he tries out, he would notice very soon, that ADA is an independent performer, studding the originally white walls with drawings and signs.”

ADA at Muffathalle

Not sure where the ‘smart’ is anymore

Smart speakers. Smartphones. They, and the world they belong to, feel less and less smart each day.

Underpaid and exhausted: the human cost of your Kindle
In the Chinese city of Hengyang, we find a fatigued, disposable workforce assembling gadgets for Amazon, owned by the world’s richest man.

[…]

Talk in the factory is of agency workers being laid off without pay during quiet periods: 700 in April and May, and 2,700 in January and February. Yet among the workers there is no great simmering anger, no burning resentment. Few have heard of Amazon or Bezos. They aren’t expecting very much and aren’t particularly disappointed when not very much is exactly what Foxconn and Amazon give them.

One 32-year-old married man says he can earn a basic 2,000 yuan (£233) a month making Kindles, but even with overtime taking it up to around £315 it is not enough.

It’s crazy to think that they work such long hours for such low pay, without being aware of how much money these companies are making, as a result of their work.

And it’s crazy to think that not joining in with this is now seen as outlandish and controversial.

This is what it’s like to not own a smartphone In 2018
Four years ago, I wrote about having no regrets for being a “dumb phone” user. At the time I was an anomaly: 58% of Americans, according to Pew researchers, owned a smartphone; that figure was around 80% for people in my age demographic. Now, I’m a clear oddity: 77% of U.S. adults are smartphone users, as are around 90% of my peers.

But, oh well. I don’t plan on changing tack anytime soon. Here’s why. …

My life without a smartphone
The problem is, divided out like that, we are left as partially everywhere and fully nowhere. We live with a constant Fear of Missing Out; but in need to fill the moments documenting life and making sure we don’t miss an email or update, we miss out being present in life, a sentiment beautifully illustrated in the viral “I forgot my phone” short film from last year.

I forgot my phone

I wonder if those Foxconn workers have any idea what that video’s on about.