Bookmarked The History of the School Bell (Hack Education)

It should come as no surprise to close observers of invented histories of education that Gatto would have something to say (in almost all his books, in fact) about the tyranny of the bell. He was, after all, one of the most influential promoters of the “school-as-factory” narrative: that the origins of mass schooling are inextricably bound to the need to reshape a rebellious farming nation’s sons and daughters into a docile, industrial workforce. It’s a powerful, influential story, sure, but it’s a pretty inaccurate history.

There is something magical about Audrey Watters’ ability to shed new light on the myths that we come to assume. In this piece, she unpacks the history of the school bell. In particular, she pushes back on the idea of the factory model.

But bells weren’t simply — or even primarily — a technology of pedagogy as much as one for announcements and alarms. Although companies like the Standard Electric Time Company (founded in Massachusetts in 1884) sold synchronized clock and bell systems to schools (and yes, factories), an early function of the latter was not to mimic the rhythm of the workplace but rather to warn occupants about fire.

Thoughts are with all the Victorian students and teachers as onsite learning resumes today. The world has changed and it will be a different space to be in. I imagine there will be a lot of anxiety, excitement and apprehension in the air, however the balloons being put out at my children’s school this morning were a thoughtful gesture. Reminds me that there are some things we can change and it is useful to start there.
In a recent post, Erin Bromage discusses the risks associated with a number of spaces. Interestingly, one space that is not mentioned was schools. This is something that David Truss captures:

Common lunch time, after work socials, ‘check-in’ meetings, team building activities, common work hours… there are many conventions that bring staff and work communities together that will change, and ‘undermine’ (?) the social fabric of previously positive work cultures.

There seems to be a lot of discussion about technology as the answer, but Naomi Klein suggests we could also re-imagine the spaces and the way we work within them:

[Eric] Schmidt is right that overcrowded classrooms present a health risk, at least until we have a vaccine. So how about hiring double the number of teachers and cutting class size in half? How about making sure that every school has a nurse?

Bookmarked Revenge of the Lunch Lady by Jane Black (

What McCoy had done in Huntington was exactly the kind of thing Republicans claim to celebrate. She wasn’t a Washington bureaucrat telling people to do it her way, or no way at all; she was a well-intentioned local who had figured out what made sense for her community and acted on it.

Jane Black explores the complexity associated with school meals. Although Jamie Oliver argued that it was simply about providing students with healthy food, Black explores the challenges of standards, funding, equipment, and training.
Bookmarked The icy village where you must remove your appendix by Richard Fisher (

There’s a settlement in Antarctica with a school, a post office and a huddle of homes. It’s like other sub-zero villages, except for one thing: families must have surgery to move in.

I wonder what ‘school’ looks like in this environment?
Bookmarked Welcome to Workload High School (EDUWELLS)

Proposal: Changing your high school structures to match the thinking of Finland, New Zealand, Ken Robinson, and many others will halve your class sizes and stress levels.

Richard Wells reflects upon the structures of high school and potential of projects to shake this up. He provides a series of ideas to support this:

It’s easier implemented as a full school and not in a seperate programme.

Teachers design a menu of interdisciplinary projects based around themes or phenomenon that have a focus on key existing curriculum.

All non-teaching / personal time slots are simultaneous for all. This means all teachers, rooms and resources are timetabled for simultaneous use, meaning each teacher shares the load and you have smaller student numbers to monitor on either a project and mentor group.

Consider Zoning groups of classrooms into Project zones. The usual 5 teachers from 5 rooms are timetabled into the zone to each mentor their smaller number of students.

All teachers take on a general academic mentoring group to focus on learning and project progress.

Teachers share the planning and monitoring of projects which makes the measuring of progress more palatable than traditional standardised teaching and marking.

Projects can be designed generically enough around a theme or phenomenon that they can be simultaneously offered to different age groups with appropriate expectations for outcomes. This can save teacher workload.

Replied to Programming – The Great Game Plan! by gregmiller68 (LEARN AND LEAD)

How are systems and schools assisting teachers with their ‘game day performance’ to nurture students to develop the necessary skills and capabilities beyond core curriculum, literacy an numeracy?

It seems to me that you can have the best ‘game plan’ in the world, but unless teachers know about their ‘game day performance’, the ‘game plan’ may not be worth that much!

Greg, this reminds me of previous experiences around locking down an instructional model. You have me wondering how this time could have been better utilised by teachers in reflecting upon their practice. You might be interested in this post from Mark Enser.
Replied to Schools That Claim to Be Ideal for All Are Closer to Ideal for Nobody by Bernard Bull (Etale)

If you are more firm on your position and say that a single school can truly be ideal for every student, then I must reply with a demand that you prove such an extreme claim. Do you really believe this or are you just holding to the position because it best supports some larger set of beliefs and values that you hold dear?

Another interesting post Bernard. I agree about the dangers of ideals. In regards to choice, I am reminded of Ewan McIntosh’s post arguing that a school can only have two core values that make up its ‘competitive position’.

My only concern is that not every school is even in a position to be competitive. This is beyond ‘vouchers’ in my opinion and relates to policy and priorities. Where I live, they have a special science school decked out with the latest and greatest, including mahogany trims around the door. Then down the road there is the ‘local’ with its asbestos risen classrooms. The science school is select entry and clearly has a different funding arrangement. This does not even touch on the problems of private verses public.

In an ideal world there would be equal access for all, but when some select entries soak up all the cash it just does not seem right?

Liked Parent Responsibility for Learning with the Digital by mallee (

The ability of schools, even the most visionary, to match the learning with the digital provided outside the school walls, is impossible. Schools as public institutions controlled by government, bureaucrats, resourcing, working conditions, legislation, law, accountability requirements, inflexible organizational structures and history can never respond to the accelerating digital evolution and transformation in the same way as the highly agile digitally connected families of the world. Even if governments wanted its schools to change, or indeed to collaborate with the families.