My daughter (7) was watching the latest episode the The Apprentice this morning, and the candidates had to come up with a marketing strategy and a video advert for some product or other (I think it was some wine or other).
Having watched the filming of the adverts she turned to me and asked “So is this advert going to be a real one, shown on TV?”. When I said no, she asked “Then what is it for?”.
The answer, of course, is that it’s for Sir Alan. It’s an arbitrary, made-up task to appease a powerful overlord who has the ability to wield power over the contestants. A slightly dramatic take, but stick with it.
Many of you will see where I’m going… My Y11s this year made a website that Y6 pupils and parents could use for the transition to secondary school. The sites, of course, will never see the light of day. They’re an arbitrary and made-up task to appease a powerful overlord who has the ability to wield power over the contestants. In this case, Sir Alan is played by the examiner / moderator / exam board / DfE, and the contestants are pupils (who are, indeed, in a contest for their grades).
Now I can complain about the situation, highlight the problem and try to exert a small influence, but there’s not really a lot I can do from the chalkface to fix it.
What I *can* do, however, is make sure that I use the freedom I have at KS3 to make sure that *I’m* not the powerful overlord. My Y8s have been instructed to build websites for someone, some club or some group that they know – with the aim that they might actually be able to use it. I have told them repeatedly that *I* am not the audience. It hasn’t quite sunk in with them yet, but it’s a long-learned practice to try and shift.
My Y13s build interactive multimedia products. I quickly learned that letting them choose their own imaginary clients (Lamborghini, Ferrari, the local football club) was a weak strategy, and so they now have to find a member of staff who wants a learning resource. Real client, real feedback, and some of them are now coming up through the school using those products and knowing that they’ll be able to make their own in a year or so.
Motivation is significantly improved, as is the quality of the work. So where I can, I’ll be avoiding arbitrary and made-up tasks with my students and looking for opportunities to make use of their work.
After all, I don’t want to end up like Alan Sugar. Next I’ll be making all the kids call me Sir…