Don't believe all you research on the net

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

It was the day that I define as the first of spring. I get up at around half-six on a working morning, have my cereal, check that everyone who needs one is sorted for packed lunches, fix some breakfast for my wife, then sit down in the front room with a book and a cup of tea. The first time each year when I can read in natural light marks, for me, the end of the long haul out of winter. All in all, a time for optimism.

The first day of spring in 2009 was also the day I went to a meeting about the Baccalaureate. I applied the Steele Blatant Nepotism test to this initiative. Would I want my son to go for it when he reaches S6? It passed, with slight qualification.

There is an 80-hour cross-curricular project unit that, along with two Advanced Highers and one Higher (selected subjects only, terms and conditions apply), forms the not-so-slight qualification.

This, we were told, could be research-based. Even in science, there need not be any practical work at its core. Fair enough, I suppose. It is likely that Baccalaureate students will be carrying out such work in physics, chemistry or biology in any case. What worries me a bit is that the word "research" appears quite often at many stages in the new curriculum. Again, fair enough, as long as, somewhere, research skills are actually developed, especially those concerning the net.

A while ago, I was researching the uses of shape memory alloys. These metals regain their original form when heated. I read on the internet of a battleship with such a hull. In the event of damage in a skirmish, a large electrical current would cause it to repair itself. "Fantastic," I thought. I was about to add this fabulous example of technology to my PowerPoint, then discovered I was on a Star Trek fan site.

But hey, it's sunny today. I'm going on a day trip to St Andrews after I finish this, and my mood is such that I am optimistic that maybe the pupils won't be as daft as I so nearly was. Mind you, the BBC internet forecast says it will cloud over by three in the afternoon.

Gregor Steele trusts Heather Reid's forecasts more than those found on the net, even though she makes jokes about his advancing years at in-service courses.

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