A comparison of schools – enabled by MySchools v2.0

The Australian government has launched version 2 of its MySchool website. The sites is meant to hold a profile of all Australian schools and enable people to perform comparisons. There has been some significant criticism of the data included in the profiles and find the site to be technically quite flawed (e.g. its been down and when you do get access the method you use to examine and compare data is poor). There has also been the first round of media stories using the availability of the data to draw conclusions (e.g. Elite schools don’t excel).

In about 6 weeks or so I’m going to be entering one of the local high schools as part of my studies to become a teacher. The following is a quick comparison of the three schools I included on my preference list. The aim is to see what data is on the MySchools site, but also to be better informed (which may not be the case depending on your view of the data on the site) about the schools.

I’ve selected a subset of the information for the purposes of this comparison. The ICSEA characteristic in the table stands for the “Index of Community and Socio-Educational Advantage” figure formulated specifically for MySchools. The average ICSEA value is meant to 1000. The “distribution of students” uses the same data to divide the school population into quarters (bottom, two middle and a top quarter).

Characteristic School #1 School #2 School #3
ICESA 881 1003 1037
Distribution of students (top down to bottom)
  • 1%
  • 4%
  • 7%
  • 88%
  • 17%
  • 28%
  • 24%
  • 31%
  • 49%
  • 28%
  • 9%
  • 14%
Enrolments 180 (8-12) 1146 (8-12) 1269 (k-12)
Indigenous students 21% 4% 1%
LOTE 3% 1% 4%
Attendance rate 87% 92% 96%
Post school destinations

  • University
  • Vocational study
  • Employment
  • Not specified

  • 8%
  • 38%
  • 31%
  • 33%

  • 27%
  • 33%
  • 37%
  • 3%

  • 38%
  • 28%
  • 26%
  • 8%

There are some significant differences in the schools. Perhaps the difference that is most telling is the “not specified” in post-school destinations. My School doesn’t include a category called “not specified”. They just provide the other 3 figures.

But 33% of the students at School #1 are, on completion of school, neither “learning nor earning”!

And that’s without asking questions about whether this is all students, just grade 12 etc.

A question (or two) on the similarity of "neuronal" and "networked" knowledge

To some extent this post is a cop out. Rather than take the time to looking into what, is for me, an important and interesting question I am going to post this for two reasons. First, to remind myself to follow up later. But mostly and second, to see if someone within my PLN (why do I find the use of that term somewhat troubling?) can offer some suggestions.

It is a little sad/ironic/funny that the reason I don’t feel I can follow up on this directly by myself is that I feel I’m somewhat behind in my formal studies and that an investigation of the following is not directly related to the requirements of that study. Even though the question arises from work associated with that study and more importantly, a comment on that work by Charles Nelson.

I am now wishing that I had had the persistence and/or motivation to stick with or start the various MOOCs on connectivism.

The question

The question is about connectivism. “A theory of learning” which has as an important component the idea that “a network with nodes and connections as a central metaphor for learning”. The Wikipedia article suggests that in connectivism “learning (is) the process of creating connections and developing a network”. Stephen Downes has said it this way

At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.

This metaphor/idea is attractive to me for at least two reasons:

  1. It has, what I understand to be, some significant coherence with what we know about the human brain and its network of neurons.
  2. It resonates quite strongly with my experience on the web, with social media, and also within organisations. i.e. that networks and connections offer a strong and useful insight into how folk/collections of folk learn.

A part of Charles’ comments include the following

Connections are being created at (least) two levels: in the brain of an individual and in the network of individual people. The knowledge that is in the brain (or body) is not the same as the knowledge distributed across people. The knowledge that is constructed, for radical constructivists (and Piaget), is in the brain.

One doesn’t traverse neurons of the brain, yet connectivists talk about the learning of the individual, which should refer to a neuronal network. Conversely, they don’t really talk about the knowledge of the network of individuals, but rather talk about the knowledge of a single individual as if it were at a network of individuals. Connectivists seem to conflate these two networks.

So, the questions to which I don’t know the answer to yet include

  • Does connectivism conflate or equate the knowledge/connections with these two levels (“neuronal” and “networked”)?
  • Regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, what are the implications that arise from that response?

There are probably a whole range of other questions embedded in these questions. Not to mention implications I’ve missed.