Do you consider yourself to be a writer?


How often do you write? How much do you write? Do you always need an audience for what you write or do you write just for yourself at times?

Writing, in my opinion, is the most potent tool of learning and thinking that the human race has got available to it. We need to write in order to find out what we think and in order to shape our learning. The evidence from cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics is quite conclusive; writing is a highly complex act which depends upon analysis and synthesis of many different levels of thinking. I have a strong conviction that sustained engagement with the written form of language actually changes us cognitively. – Dr. Brian Cambourne

I heard those words from Dr. Brian Cambourne at an education conference I attended in Singapore back in 1986. I wish I could share all the lectures that he gave during those few days but I only have it in video format and I’m not going to transcribe it all for you. Sorry.

Dr. BRIAN CAMBOURNE started his career by teaching for fifteen years in a variety of small, mostly one-teacher schools. He has since become one of Australians most eminent researchers of literacy and learning. He was a post-doctoral Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

What’s he saying? To over simplify, he’s saying that the very act of writing helps us to map out our thoughts and helps us learn. The processes that we use for writing are more powerful than the acts of simply speaking or listening.

Most bloggers would know this to be true. Even in the simple act of writing a blog post we can write, read, correct, read, restructure and read again before we finally hit the publish button. We take care to make sense and to be understood and it is in this process that we often more fully develop our own understanding of the subject matter.

Cambourne’s big concern was that most of us don’t engage with the written form of language nearly enough. Somewhere in the process of learning literacy we have adopted the thought that we’re not very good at writing and that it’s not something that most of us would do voluntarily without very good reason.

The very fact that we consider writing as something specialised that most people can’t do is a problem. We should all consider ourselves to be writers, whether that’s as someone who writes for a living or simply writes for their own benefit.

Even though the standard is sometimes less than brilliant, blogging has at least got millions of people mapping out their thoughts through writing but we need to encourage more people to write, even if their words will never be read by another person.

Do you want to find out what you really think about a topic? Sit down for a while and starting writing. Want to figure out a complex issue? Get writing.

What about you? Do you find writing difficult? How much do you write each day? Do you find that writing helps you clarify things in your own mind? Does it help you learn?

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Going Back to School

What are your memories of your school years? Was school a happy place or something to be endured?

It’s been over 30 years since I left school to start a cooking apprenticeship. It seems like a lifetime ago.

The holidays are over or almost over for most students. Do you remember that feeling? I know I do.

School was OK but holidays were just so wonderful. I used to wish that they would never end. Holidays are great no matter how old you are but there’s something magical about school holidays.

Our kids are on holiday at the moment. They head back to school on Wednesday. They have two days of freedom left.

I used to get particularly annoyed by the advertising in the summer holidays. Weeks before the new school year started I’d start seeing back to school signs everywhere. They’d have big signs up in shopping centres, they’d advertise back to school sales on TV and radio and the newspaper would be littered with back to school ads. Then the letterbox would fill up with catalogues full of back to school specials.

I didn’t need reminding that the holidays were rapidly coming to an end.

So how were your school days? Do you wish you could go back and live those times all over again? Can you remember what you thought your life would become after school? Has the reality lived up to what you imagined back then?

I’d love to read your comments.

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Faith and Education

DavidSmith.gifChristian education is a subject that evokes a wide range of opinions. Some feel that it’s the only reasonable option in current times, while others would say that it brainwashes children or that it places young people into a false reality, cocooning them away from ‘real life’.

While I have my concerns about some forms of Christian education, I need to say that we have chosen to educate our children through a Christian college. Rather than hiding children away from the world and its views, I believe that Christian education can prepare children to face the world. A teacher’s world view will always come through in the way that they teach and I feel it’s important that our children are taught from people who have a similar world view to our own.

One of the world’s leading authorities on Christian education, author and international education consultant, David Smith, has been described as a gifted, passionate, insightful and challenging speaker. David will soon be in Perth for the one day Christian Education National State Conference – Reimagining the Christian Classroom – Monday the 20th of July – at Swan Christian College. He’ll also be speaking at a couple of parent evenings – Saturday the 18th July – Foundation Christian College – Greenfields – and Tuesday the 21st July – Kingsway Christian College – Darch.

David I Smith completed his B.A. at Oxford University, a M.Phil.F. Degree at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and a PhD in curriculum studies at the Institute of Education at the University of London. He is currently Director of the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and Associate professor of German at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He serves as Senior Editor of the journal of Education and Christian Belief and Editor of the Journal of Christianity and Foreign Languages. He has authored or edited over 10 books and over 30 book chapters and articles in the fields of language education and philosophy of education, and travels widely as a speaker at educational events and as a consultant to schools.

In preparation for his Perth visit, I spoke to David during my morning programme on 98.5 Sonshine FM. I found him to be a fascinating person and I only wish I could have spent longer talking about the issue of education.

We spoke about a range of topics such as how we can retain a sense of awe and wonder of God while being immersed in a Christian education environment.

If you have school aged children, can I encourage you to think through the issues David raises? You can listen to our conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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