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Preview: Educational Technology - ICT in Education -- Full Stories

Educational Technology - ICT in Education -- Full Stories

Practical advice for users, teachers, leaders and managers of educational ICT

Copyright: 1995-2007 Terry Freedman

The new ICT in Education website is well under way!

Mon, 2 Nov 2009 22:33:35 GMT

Well, the new website is up and running and, I'm pleased to say, gaining in popularity. Quite a few people have messged me by one means or other to say that they like the new look. Basically, I'm determined to resist the temptation to install every widget known to humanity! Instead, I'm more concerned with:a) great contentb) making it easy to find said content, andc) encouraging people to contribute.I have always had these worthy aims in mind, but one of the unintended consequences of having a lot of (a) has been the getting away from (b).If you would like to contribute to the website, whether in the form of comments or actual articles, please do. (For articles, email me first to pitch the idea.)As the new website has been going for only a few weeks, there are only 35 articles there at the time of writing (but growing at the rate of at least two posts a day at the moment). These are listed at the end of this post, and I hope you enjoy reading them.In the meantime, you may like to subscribe to the new site's RSS feed, which is:'s the one that is going to be updated every weekday, pretty much, from now on.That's it from me. Please check out the articles below, and check out the new site. And please subscribe to the RSS feed if you'd like to be notified automatically each time there is a new article to read on the site.Click on an entry title below to view the full text of that entry.'Digital literacy' is a red herring10 Reasons to use Diigo12 factors to consider when evaluating books and other paper resources23 factors to consider when evaluating digital resourcesA text editor with a differenceBack through the time tunnel: the effects of technology on lifestyle, and techno-romanticsmBeing too overbearing simply does not workBuilding up slowly: more changes to this websiteChecklist: 8 things to check every day in a computer roomChecklist: 9 General Principles for Recruiting Technical Support StaffChecklist: 9 Guidelines for Managing a Technical Support TeamDoes using the internet affect the brain?Handheld Learning Keynotes Now AvailableHave a look: 10/27/2009If you tweet, will anybody hear it?Interesting sites 10/24/2009 (a.m.)Is there a place for the barefoot researcher?Life without the internet?No commentReflections on Handheld Learning: Authenticity vs KaraokeTake a look: 10/28/2009 (a.m.)Take a look: 10/29/2009 (a.m.)Take a look: 10/29/2009 (p.m.)Take a look: 10/30/2009 (p.m.)The Internet: Empowering or Censoring Citizens - A talk at the RSAVideo choice: 10/28/2009We're getting there...Web 2.0 Project: Alan Perkins' workWeb 2.0 Project: Jennifer Wagner's workWeb 2.0 Project: Marina Alfonso's workWeb 2.0 Project: Sharon Peters' workWeb 2.0 Projects Book: Deadline Extended!Website progress reportWhat young people can do, and 7 implications of thatWhere do people turn to for expert advice?[...]

New ICT in Education website up and running

Thu, 22 Oct 2009 11:21:50 +0100

The new ICT in Education website is now up and running. Here is some information about where it is and how to subscribe.
The site is called Educational Technology - ICT in Education, and is located here:

That's where I will be posting most new articles for the foreseeable future, so you may like to subscribe to its RSS feed.

I'll be writing an article soon about why we made the change, but please go visit the site. It's a bit embryonic at the moment, but it's really easy to find stuff!

See you there I hope!

Changes afoot

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 22:39:50 +0100

I'm starting a new website. The domain names '' and '' will soon (fingers crossed!) point to a different website. More information about that soon, but this message is to give you prior warning that going to those URLs will soon take you to a different website than the one you were expecting.

If you wish to return to this website, please use URLs '' and ''.

Thank you.

A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way Home

Thu, 15 Oct 2009 18:14:58 +0100


Waterloo Station, London, by Terry Freedman via Flickr

London is a sprawling place and, depending on how you define its boundaries, is home to up to around 18 million people.

So what are the chances of this happening?

Yesterday I wrote an article called Is There a Place for the Barefoot Researcher?. This was in response to an article by Joe Nutt, called The value of real scholarship.

Bear in mind that I haven't seen Joe for months. But today, as I was going down the escalator from the mainline station at Waterloo to the Underground, I passed Joe going in the opposite direction, ie he was on the 'up' escalator.

"Hi, Terry!", he said.

"Hi, Joe", I replied. "I wrote a diatribe about an article of yours last night."

"Oh yes?"

"Yes! Look on the bloggers' circle."

And that was it! I wonder what the probability is of a chance meeting like that less than 24 hours after writing a blog referring to the person?


Is There a Place for the Barefoot Researcher?

Wed, 14 Oct 2009 23:31:47 +0100

I have a lot of time for academics. Some of my best friends are academics. I used to be something of an academic myself (I studied for, and obtained, an MA, and did some ground-breaking research into adult economics education which resulted in my being invited to embark on a PhD; I declined).The reason I mention all this is, of course, by way of a prelude to, not so much an all-out attack on, but an all-out gripe about, academic research.Don't get me wrong: I'm all in favour of it, especially when it comes to matters to do with ICT. But in my experience, most academic researchers do not see much value in research which is not what you'd call academic. I refer, as you may have guessed, to the sort of observations made and noted down by teachers and other practitioners. What I like to refer to as 'barefoot researchers'.There's a lot wrong with the barefoot approach, undoubtedly. Joe Nutt eloquently - and forcefully - draws our attention to that in his post The value of real scholarship. He says:The idea that someone can scribble a few inarticulate pages online, drag and drop a few minutes of video footage showing some exploited child enthusing about the latest gadget, and call it “research” just doesn’t cut it for me I’m afraid.I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first let’s look at academic research. Too often it is concerned with minutiae, is incomprehensible, takes a long time to say anything of any practical value, is boring and even, occasionally, badly written.Obviously, what I’ve said may be true of some academic research but not all. By the same token. Nutt’s mini-diatribe against less academic research is itself as selective as it is partisan, a caricature.And superficial. In the excerpt just referred to Nutt links to Stephen Heppell’s Be Very Afraid website. I’d agree that to an extent the videos are short and don’t say very much. However, I went to that event and interviewed several youngsters, and I have to say that I was very impressed by how articulate they were in discussing what they used the ICT for, and why.There is much to be said for teacher-led classroom research. There has been some excellent work by members of Mirandanet, for example, whilst at the recent Handheld Learning Conference there were sound presentations by teachers Dawn Hallybone and Philip Griffin. Both have been experimenting with handheld technology in the primary classroom, and neither could justifiably be accused of being more concerned with the technology than its educational value (another one of Nutt’s ongoing concerns).For me, the value of such non-academic research is that it’s quick, anyone can do it, it can provide a solution to a problem quickly and it often indicates the need for a more academic appraisal in the future. Surely that would help to explain why Becta decided to fund research into the educational value of using Web 2.0 applications in the secondary school? It made sense to do so in the light of the growing mound of anecdotal evidence.I believe that one of the side effects of the disparagement of non-academic research is that it causes teachers to be reluctant to put themselves forward as doing something noteworthy. I think that’s a pity.Certainly the collection of Web 2.0 project ideas I published last year has been extremely well-received by teachers. The ideas have mostly been furnished by teachers, who tried them out with their students. The book may not stand up to academic scrutiny, but it works where it matters: in the classroom.I’m in the process of updating the Web 2.0 Project Book. If you’d like to submit an entry, please read this article.[...]

Handheld Learning Keynotes Now Available

Wed, 14 Oct 2009 15:54:41 +0100

Great news: the keynotes from the first day proper of this year's Handheld Learning Conference are now available. Here are the URLs.

Set aside a few hours to watch Graham Brown-Martin's provocative introductory talk followed by four highly stimulating lectures from guest speakers, including one from Malcolm McLaren.

Graham Brown-Martin

James Paul Gee
Yvonne Roberts

Zenna Atkins

Malcolm McLaren


Reflections on Handheld Learning: Authenticity vs Karaoke, and magnificent failure vs benign success

Thu, 8 Oct 2009 15:55:21 +0100

  Image by Terry Freedman via FlickrMalcolm McLaren is not, perhaps, the first person that would spring to mind in the context of education. Yet, as one of the keynotes at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 he had much to say that was highly relevant – in an irrelevant sort of way. Let me deal with that last comment first. I think that if there is one danger of conferences is that, if the organisers are not careful, the delegates end up in a kind of echo chamber in which all they are doing is, in effect, reinforcing what they all believe to be true anyway. For me, this was no more apparent than in those sessions in which the presenter eulogised about the benefits of handheld devices. Yes. I know. That’s why I came. Go tell it to a bunch of people who haven’t had the opportunity to think about it or find out about it yet! What conferences need is at least one ‘outsider’ who does not know the rules and conventions, and who can therefore break them. Or, at least, challenge them. That’s why a few years ago I booked a journalist called John Clare to speak at the Naace conference, a gathering of the sort of people who attended the Handheld Learning Conference. Clare, a sort of intellectual Luddite, had one or two people walk out of his lecture, and another person subsequently voicing the view that it’s only a matter of time before Holocaust-deniers will be brought to the podium. In other words, his talk was a huge success! It got people talking for days afterwards, and even grudgingly admitting that he might be right. Thus it was that McLaren had people tweeting each other and anyone else who would listen, asking what the point of it all was. Well, I’ll pull out a few key things he said, and give you my own take on it all. Whatever you may think, one cannot deny that the atmosphere in the room was electric. That was partly because, I think, it was pretty amazing to have such a cultural icon addressing us in person, despite his somewhat avuncular (or, in Steve Wheeler’s phrase, affable grandfather) appearance. And also, possibly, because one dared not think what he might actually say. McLaren described his schooling. To cut a long story short, by any usual measures he was an abject failure. However, McLaren believes that it is important to be a magnificent failure rather than a benign success. Yet, in our modern society, that is hardly presented as an option. Rather, we live in a karaoke world in which we can revel in our own stupidity, in which we want instant success without working for it. We have lost (and this is my interpretation) the understanding of the truth behind the old show biz joke that it takes 20 years to achieve overnight success. McLaren likes the idea of the flaneur, the observer who is at the centre of everything yet invisible to all. He spoke of the need to understand the artistic value of banality. For me, McLaren put into words what I have been unable to, or at least not nearly so eloquently. For example, for a long time now I have been taking photosasked why everything has to be so interesting all the time. of ‘boring’ subjects. The way I see it, lots of people take photos of ‘interesting’ subjects; who is recording the boring everyday stuff? I also took a similar stance in an article about a video, in which I So what does all this have to do with handheld learning? The key, I think, can be found in his comment that by working on his creative side, it helped him get along with himself; it helped him to find out who he was. That is a very profound, and very moving, statement. We have fantastic technology now, technology that can liberate us in all sorts of ways. For example, as I mentioned in a recent article, technology has had some profound effects on our lifestyle over the past few decades. But what a missed opportunity if none of this stuff leads to, or contributes to, inner liberation. Look at the Attainm[...]

Reflections on Handheld Learning: Technology May Give Parents Consumer Power, But Is That Unequivocally Good?

Wed, 7 Oct 2009 00:39:17 +0100

I think a good conference is one in which you come away with perhaps more questions than answers. Yes, everyone goes to such events looking for ‘solutions’, but in an intellect-driven (or it should be) enterprise like education, it’s often the questions that move us on. And the harder the better.On that criterion, I would say that the second day of the Handheld Learning conference I’ve been attending in London, especially the morning, was a great success. Under the heading ‘Reflections on Learning’, four speakers gave us their perspective on learning. In the case of Zenna Atkins of Ofsted, the UK’s school inspectorate, and especially Malcolm McLaren – yes, that one – the perspective was quite personal.When the videos of the sessions appear on the Handheld Learning Conference website it will be well worth sending a couple of hours watching them. For now, I’m quite interested in raising a few questions which were either posed by the speakers themselves or which occurred to me as I was listening to them. In this article I’d like to consider the views of Zenna Atkins.According to Atkins, we need to shift our thinking away from structures and institutions, and towards learning and teaching. From her perspective, the student and parent are consumers of education, and the technology enables them to be more proactive than was once possible.For example, she cites the case of her son videoing a near-riot going on his classroom whilst the teacher did nothing, and phoned her so she could watch it in real time. She phoned the school to tell them what was going on, and then was able to see a senior teacher walk into the room. At this point, the class settles down, of course, and there are no signs of the mayhem which existed before. The senior teacher confiscates her son’s mobile phone and effectively calls him a liar – but, of course, there is now evidence to the contrary.Atkins also talked about the increasingly-common doctors’ complaint: that their patients know more about their own conditions than the doctor does.What Atkins is describing is, in fact, what economists would call the move towards a perfect market. In such a market, suppliers of goods and services cannot foist a lousy product onto the consumer, because consumers, having perfect knowledge and no barriers to movement, can easily switch to another provider. In this brave new world, parents will be able to choose from a menu of learning options for their children. In Atkins’ ideal world, parents would be given an educational allowance that would enable them to purchase the education of their choice.I think this kind of world seems pretty Utopian, but only from a particular perspective: a middle class one. In practice, I would ask the following questions:Firstly, although it is de rigueur to talk of people’s right to choose, I think there is also an obligation to ensure that they choose wisely. I hate to buck the trend, but I’d like to ask: is it possible that the customer really is not always right?For example, some years ago I devised a course called ‘Understanding the British Economy’, and had this crazy notion that I would ask the participants to help frame the content. Well, they all had different ideas on what should or should not be included in the syllabus, but what almost all of them wanted was for me to teach them how to understand the subject matter in such a way that they would be able to avoid being bamboozled by politicians and the media in the future.In other words, they recognised that I, as the expert, would be able to give them a set of tools with which to approach this area – a set of tools which they would be unable, without quite a lot of investment of time and energy, to put together themselves.But I said almost all. One of them thought that every economic ill was caused, in some way, by the balance of payments. If I’d h[...]

Back through the time tunnel: the effects of technology on lifestyle, and techno-romanticsm

Fri, 2 Oct 2009 08:24:20 +0100

Time tunnelI watched an interesting TV programme last night. Called Electric Dreams, the programme followed the fortunes of a family whose home had been transported back in time to the 1970s. Each day brought a new year, and the technology that went with it. Some insightful connections were made. For example, as the freezer began to make its way into people’s homes, it became feasible to do a weekly shop rather than a daily one. That, in turn, freed women (mainly) up to do more things besides housework.I think a programme like this can be useful to show to youngsters for two reasons. Firstly, to help them perceive that there is a history behind the devices that they take for granted today. I remember one young lady being incredulous when she realised, from something I said, that there had been a time before video players! I don’t know why I think this is important, I just do.Secondly, it’s useful to be able to explore the possible connections between technological innovation and lifestyle, as with the freezer example above. Most ICT courses include a section on the impact of technology on society, so this would not be time wasted. Of course, and this is another avenue worth looking at, technological innovation is, at first, enjoyed only by the few. With freezers and colour televisions costing the equivalent of several weeks’ earnings, they could not be bought by everyone when they first appeared in the shops. Is this still the case now? I think it probably is, but my perception is that the time it takes for the price to fall is much shorter than it used to be.One of the things I do find frustrating about such programmes, although this one was refreshingly honest, is the prevalence of what might be called ‘techno-romanticsm’. What, I ask myself, was so great about not being able to start my car on a cold winter’s morning? What was so wonderful about cassette-driven computers that took ages to be ready? The past may have been OK when we were living in it, but who would wish to go back there? The lady of the house thought that it would be nice to get back to a time when families spent more time with each other, before technology was so ubiquitous. Am I missing something, or is she saying that the technology, not she or her husband, dictates what happens in their own home? That is like my saying I long for the time when there were only 5 TV channels to watch, because then I would spend more time with my wife. The solution is simple: switch the TV off and sit and read or talk! I found it interesting that one of their children (none of whom had ever used a record player before) liked the idea of having a vinyl album because it was tangible, unlike music downloads. I also found it interesting, returning to the theme of how technology influences lifestyle, to reflect that whereas thirty years ago sending a child to their room was seen as a punishment, because there was nothing to do there and they would be incommunicado, now it would be seen as a reward!As far as teaching was concerned, I enjoyed pushing the boat out with technology to see how it might be used in learning and teaching (and still do). But having to book a computer room at the Institute of Education for my evening class students back in 1982, or having to post my students’ decisions and then wait a week for the computer results may have been fine at the time, because we knew no better. But who in their right mind would look back on all that as some kind of golden age?The past may be interesting, even fascinating, but the best thing about it, as far as I’m concerned, is that it is the past!You can see the programme I've referred to, for a limited period of time, by following the TV link on the Electric Dreams website. The 1980s are next.[...]

Web 2.0 Projects Book Deadline Extended

Thu, 1 Oct 2009 15:29:28 +0100

I've had a great response to my call for submissions to this ebook, which seeks to collate information about interesting projects involving the use of Web 2.0 applications in schools.The original deadline was 30 September, but last night I received some news which has led me to extend it until the 31st October.Diane Brooks, who writes the ICT in Education blog in New Zealand (no connection with this website) very kindly posted a message about the book on her blog. However, she informed me privately that schools in New Zealand are currently on holiday. Also, and more importantly, many New Zealanders, including some of her colleagues and students, have family in Samoa. They will obviously have more pressing concerns than a book about Web 2.0, so it seemed only right and sensible to extend the deadline for everyone because of the troubles in Samoa, Indonesia and that general area of the world.So what is the state of play so far? I've received over 60 new projects, and they all look really interesting. The applications used include e-portfolios, social networking, video Es and the 'usual suspects': blogs, wikis and a fresh-faced arrival, Twitter!Many, if not most, of the ideas are as simple as they are exciting. For example (and it's hard to single out just one or two from this cornucopia), Nancy Raff says:"We're creating a virtual ribbon of 6 pieces with a photo showing why a student loves the earth and a statement of why they love it and what they will do to protect it. Many schools have joined this project and people from 59 countries. Spans all grades."Or take this one, from Tom Daccord:"The "Great Debate of 2008" is a collaborative project providing 130+ students from 8 states with an opportunity to lead an exploration and discussion of issues and candidates surrounding the 2008 presidential election."I think you'd agree that these ideas are not only simple but also scaleable in either direction. For example, the Great Debate wiki could be run with just one class, and the virtual ribbon project could be run with classes in the same school or neighbouring schools rather than across 59 countries.That's the whole idea of this ebook: to share ideas, rather than to share 'best practice'. So if you have been running an educational project with Web 2.0 tools, no matter how humble you think it is, please share!Just one thing, though: some of the URLs provided by people in their submissions are passworded, or are to a general website or blog rather than a specific post or area about the project concerned. In order to make the ebook as useful as possible to others, please provide a useful and pertinent URL. Ideally, if the site is passworded, perhaps you could provide a guest login. Alternatively, if that would be problematic in terms of e-safety concerns, send me a screenshot or two which will at least give people an idea of what's behind the firewall. Thanks for your co-operation in this!The online form should take you only a few minutes to complete.Thank you.More about the project.[...]

Two changes to this website

Wed, 30 Sep 2009 16:42:41 +0100

Here is a brief update about two changes which have been implemented on this website.Firstly, the name of the site has been changed from 'The Educational Technology Site: ICT in Education' to 'Educational Technology -  ICT in Education'. The definite article seemed superfluous, as did the word 'site'.The RSS feeds are still the same, although if you subscribe you may wish to change the name of  the subscription in your RSS Reader accordingly.Secondly, Computers in Classrooms is now available via an RSS feed. I'm experimenting with this, so if nothing drastic goes wrong it will remain in place. You can still subscribe to it, of course, in order to receive it by email.The feed is: And here is the archive of newsletters published since February 2009:  Computers in Classrooms 08 September 2009Sep 8 2009NOT Computers in Classrooms ...Sep 5 2009Computers in Classrooms July 2009Jul 15 2009Computers in Classrooms: ICT in the Rose Review of the Primary Curriculum: Wordle & PDF VersionMay 11 2009Computers in Classrooms Briefing: ICT in the Rose Review of the Primary CurriculumMay 5 2009Computers in Classrooms Social Networking SpecialApr 30 2009Computers in Classrooms Back to School Briefing April 2009Apr 22 2009Computers in Classrooms Mid-April 2009 EditionApr 16 2009Computers in Classrooms -- omissionApr 3 2009Computers in Classrooms 3 April 2009Apr 3 2009[fname] Computers in Classrooms, with details of zero-cost software and a job opportunityMar 13 2009Computers in Classrooms March 2009Mar 3 2009Computers in Classrooms 9th February 2009: Safer Internet DayFeb 8 2009          Computers in Classrooms 08 September 2009      Sep 8 2009              NOT Computers in Classrooms ...      Sep 5 2009              Computers in Classrooms July 2009      Jul 15 2009              Computers in Classrooms: ICT in the Rose Review of the Primary Curriculum: Wordle & PDF Version      May 11 2009              Computers in Classrooms Briefing: ICT in the Rose Review of the Primary Curriculum      May 5 2009              Computers in Classrooms Social Networking Special      Apr 30 2009              Computers in Classrooms Back to School Briefing April 2009      Apr 22 2009              Computers in Classrooms Mid-April 2009 Edition      Apr 16 2009              Computers in Classrooms -- omission      Apr 3 2009              Computers in Classrooms 3 April 2009      Apr 3 2009              [fname] Computers in Classrooms, with details of zero-cost software and a job opportunity      Mar 13 2009              Computers in Classrooms March 2009      Mar 3 2009              Computers in Classrooms 9th February 2009: Safer Internet Day      Feb 8 2009      [...]

Sport England collaborates with Facebook

Wed, 30 Sep 2009 06:33:14 +0100

According to a press release:

"Sport England and Facebook have announced a new partnership that will transform the way sports bodies engage with participants as they deliver a lasting Olympic legacy of one million people playing more sport."

Is this a good thing or not?

The article goes on to state that at the heart of this initiative, which is intended to get 12,000 students doing sport in the next four months, is the Sport Hub. This is, from the sound of it, like a Facebook fan page on steroids, and includes such functionality as the ability to organise sports events. (I thought you could do that anyway. Perhaps there is a more dedicated tool than simply the announcements you can make?)

I'm not really into sport, to be honest, and so on that level I have little interest in this news. However, despite the possibility that if Facebook is seen as having become mainstream young people will start to leave it in droves, I have to say that I regard this kind of development as a good thing.

Why? Because it seems to me that if you want to engage people in anything, you have to go to where they are. And you have to use the most appropriate tools for bringing them to you. We are constantly hearing about the negative aspects of Facebook and other forms of web-based social networking, but the fact is that any application can be used for good or otherwise (see The internet – empowering or censoring citizens?), and can be used wisely or unwisely. That is why I have always been of the opinion that schools, rather than ban the use of sites like Facebook, should teach young people how to be safe in them.

Back to Sport England: the 'hidden curriculum' aspect of this partnership, of course, is that it conveys the message that social networking is mainstream, and is OK.

The internet – empowering or censoring citizens?

Wed, 30 Sep 2009 00:17:56 +0100

I attended a fascinating talk at the RSA last week. In a lecture entitled “The Internet: Empowering or Censoring Citizens”, Evgeny Morozov questioned whether the internet really is the means to inevitable freedom and democracy it is often portrayed to be.‘So what?’, you may ask. From an educational point of view I think this is an important topic for discussion for two reasons. The first is that, in general terms, we should take every opportunity to ‘force’ students to think for themselves. When I was a teacher, I usually adopted Oscar Wilde’s stance:“Don't say you agree with me. When people agree with me. I always feel that I must be wrong.”Students need to be encouraged to seek questions, even if the answers are not as readily forthcoming.Matthew Taylor and Evgeny Morozov at the RSASecondly, in every ICT course, apart from purely skills ones, there is a section on the effects of technology on society. By examining issues such as whether or not the internet is automatically a means of distributing power more evenly in a society, the teacher would be addressing the spirit (if not always the letter) of that section.Morozov challenged the view of the people he refers to as ‘cyberutopians’ that connectivity + devices = democracy. Some states, he pointed out, are using the web to crack down on dissidents.In his talk, the link to which is given below, he described a number of ways in which some countries are using the power of the web to curtail, rather than to extend, democracy and freedom. If you think about it, it is obvious that web 2.0 applications are not inherently good or bad, so why would it be so surprising to discover that countries use them for their own ends?In this context Morozov spoke of the ‘spinternet’. The idea is that when deletion of content is, in effect, impossible, the next best approach to dealing with what we might call off-message sentiments is to use political spin to defuse the issue.The general and simplistic view seems to be that once every young person in a country has an ipod, they will miraculously turn into democrats. This ipod liberalism, as Morozov terms it, represents a deterministic view. It seems to me to be pretty insulting too. After all, if someone gave you an ipod, would your principles and beliefs suddenly fly out of the window? I realise that that is a somewhat simplistic counter-argument, but no more so than, it seems to me, the argument itself. In any case, a more realistic approach would be to recognise the existence of cyberhedonism: most people are not interested in politics, as shown in this illustration: And perhaps we need to borrow from Maslow and draw up a hierarchy of cyberneeds (see illustration below). In this paradigm, internet users start by satisfying their basic ‘needs’ – for pornography, file-sharing and video downloading – before progressing to less self-centred activities.Towards the end of his talk, in an almost throwaway comment, Morozov vividly illustrated the power of the web in the ‘wrong’ hands. In the past, he said, a totalitarian regime would have to torture an activist to find out the names of his associates. Now all they have to do is go on Facebook.Of course, it’s easy to point the finger at totalitarian regimes, but even in countries like the UK and USA, power is not evenly distributed on the web. For example, half of Wikipedia’s articles are accounted for by only 10% of its users (Clay Shirky has drawn attention to this sort of thing as well). There is nothing nefarious in this, of course, but it’s salutary to bear in mind that, according to Morozov, the average person stands only a 2% chance of being mentioned on the front page of Digg. Hardly an even distribution of influence.[...]

Still time to submit a Web 2.0 project

Tue, 29 Sep 2009 12:45:16 +0100


I've received some great-looking project ideas for inclusion in the new edition of the free Web 2.0 Projects Book. Here is a brief update on the current state of play. The deadline for submissions is tomorrow, ie 30th September -- but the process won't take more than 10 minutes!

The projects received so far span a range of applications. Interestingly (and as you would expect), video features more heavily than in the original edition of the book.

So far I have received just over 50 projects, plus an indication that at least one more will be submitted a bit later in the year, when some data from the project will be available. So that brings me on to something I'd like to say about the deadline: I don't like to extend deadlines if I can avoid doing so. However, if you have recently started a great project, but don't have much data yet, or if you have a great project going but don't have the time to submit the form by tomorrow, please get in touch and I will try to be as flexible as I can.

A slightly disappointing aspect of the submissions is that there are relatively few in the very young age group. So, if you are trying out Web 2.0 applications with tiny tots, please let us know about it!

The original article about this book is here: Web 2.0 Projects Book. To submit your project, I have set up an online form for that purpose.

I look forward to hearing from you!

test post

Fri, 25 Sep 2009 22:59:08 +0100

test post

Too overbearing by half

Wed, 23 Sep 2009 23:23:17 +0100

Being too overbearing simply does not work.I have recently stopped going to “my”gym, and started going to an unfamiliar one instead. The small increase in travelling time and the extra cost in terms of parking are more than compensated for by the peace and quiet I enjoy as a result of switching. So what's all this about, and how does it relate to educational technology?Let me deal with the second question first, because I wish to keep your attention. Many subject leaders of ICT in schools (and sometimes Local Authorities and other organisations) have a remit to encourage colleagues to use educational technology as well. To do so, one has to tell people, and demonstrate to people, the benefits. But there is a fine line between doing that, and being completely insensitive – and thereby disrespectful – to the other person.Back to the gym. It's not the gym that's the problem, but the restaurant. If you order a cheese sandwich, you get a sort of roll call of every other type of sandwich you could have instead. A request for a coffee is answered by a list of all the health benefits of smoothies. Wondering aloud if you might try the fruit salad, you get a long-winded explanation of all the ingredients therein, why they are healthy and how the fruit was hand-picked from a local farm only hours earlier. You get what you want in the end, but not before having to waste time listening to someone you don't wish to listen to, and without feeling that you have to summon up reserves of assertiveness merely in order to enjoy the light refreshment of your choice. And in the shortest possible time.Consequently, I have decided to vote with my feet.Several conclusions can be drawn from this in the context of ICT:Firstly, I can read. Therefore, I can read the menu. I don't need someone bending my ear about all the things I could have. Does your school have a menu of ICT services that colleagues could enjoy? If not, I think you should make that a priority: not only will it be informative to those colleagues who wish to be informed, it will save you from being an insufferable bore to those who don't.Secondly, there's an implicit assumption that I am not well-informed enough to make a sensible choice by myself. At least, one could infer that. By the same token, to look at this in an educational technology context, if someone tells you they'd like to word-process their worksheets, do you respond by suggesting they may like to consider desktop publishing them instead? I did once, and was unable to understand the negative reaction I received. It's fairly safe to assume that someone who is intelligent and qualified enough to be a teacher is able to decide what they'd like to do with their own worksheets. And if you do harbour any doubts about that, you can always refer them to that menu I was talking about.Thirdly and finally, I think it is generally acknowledged that there is nothing worse than an evangelist. As an ex-smoker, I suddenly lurch somewhere to the right of Attila The Hun when anyone inadvertently blows cigarette smoke in my face. Nobody is more tedious than the couple who have just discovered a new holiday resort and insist on showing you -- and describing in great detail -- every single one of the 400 photographs they took whilst on vacation. Similarly, if you start to get the feeling that the staffroom starts to empty when you enter it, and bookings for equipment either dries up or starts to be done on teachers' behalf by trusted students, perhaps it's time to ask yourself if, perhaps, you've been coming on a little strong lately.[...]

Tenacity: a good quality or a bad one?

Tue, 22 Sep 2009 09:42:54 +0100

One of the qualities that a subject leader must have, in my opinion, is the ability and willingness to stand one's ground. I think that this applies especially in the case of the ICT (or educational technology) leader, given the sorts of pressure he or she is often under.

For example:
  • It's perceived as expensive....

  • ... Consequently, there is often pressure to demonstrate that the investment has been worth it. Nothing wrong with that, of course, except that I wonder if other subject leaders find themselves under similar scrutiny to prove, say, that the class set of textbooks 'worked'.

  • A good rule of thumb is that around 90% of staff in a school use information technology in a basic but perfectly acceptable way, and most of the other 10% (excluding you) pride themselves on not understanding any of it. Unfortunately, much of the time that small proportion tends to be more influential than their numbers suggest. I have no scientific evidence for that statement, by the way, only my (casual) perception and experience!
The word 'politicians' is not usually found sharing a sentence with the term 'role model'. However, whatever you may think of Michael Howard's 'performance' in this video clip, I think he shows an admirable ability to stick to his guns and to manage to not answer a question which he clearly does not want to answer. (At the time he was bidding for the leadership of the UK's Conservative Party, which gives his stubborness/toughness a context.)The issue here is this: leaving aside the actual issue and politics in general, does Howard demonstrate a trait which ICT leaders should seek to emulate, or not?

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Your Justice, Your World: Reviewers Needed

Thu, 17 Sep 2009 09:56:22 +0100

Sophie Bessemer has emailed me to tell me about this new resource. It has sections for students and parent as well as teachers. As you might gather from its name, YJYW is designed for use in Citizenship and similar classes.I've had a quick look, and I think that with a bit of tweaking it would also be useful in the Society, Health and Development Diploma, since that has a substantial legal element.The site contains resources such as ideas for extension work and role play, links to useful organisations, comprehensive glossaries and downloadable activity sheets. I need at least one primary specialist and at least one secondary specialist to review the site. The review does not have to be the length of War and Peace! A few paragraphs addressing issues such as accuracy and usability of the resources, ease of use of the website and so on are all that's needed. If you're interested, please email me your review. In so doing you will be assumed to be happy for me to publish your name and a bit about you, e.g. Freda Blogs is a teacher of Citizenship at a school in Essex. (You don't have to cite the name of the school if you'd rather not.) Feel free to provide a website or blog address so that people can visit you or your place of work. Your email address won't be published unless you ask for it to be.I will also assume that you agree with the terms and conditions. You will retain the copyright.Now, by so doing you will gain instant fame, though not, alas, fortune. However, you can bask in the warm glow of knowing that your reflections may help others. The only thing is (there is always a catch, isn't there?), I need the review by 24 September. It would help me if you could let me know if you intend to submit a review.Attribution: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0[...]

If your ICT provision were a restaurant...

Tue, 15 Sep 2009 09:19:49 +0100

A lot of restaurants provide free 'extras' that help to make the experience enjoyable. So, as an interesting little exercise, if you're an ICT co-ordinator or ICT subject leader, what do you do to make people's experience of ICT more pleasant?The kind of things restaurants do, depending on the type of cuisine, and the individuality of the owner, include:Placing fresh iced water on the table without your having to ask for it.Placing bread on the table.Placing bread sticks on the table.Putting a plate of olives on the table.Supplying you with 'bottomless' coffee.Supplying you with 'bottomless' fresh orange juice.Giving you a square of chocolate when the bill is presented (as a sweetener?).Giving you a complementary drink along with your bill.Opening the door for you as you leave.Shaking hands with you as you leave.Presenting ladies with a rose.What do all of these have in common?They are 'extras'. One could argue that good food and service are to be expected and therefore, in a sense, need not be commented upon. However, extras are, by definition, things you were not expecting, and therefore nice to receive.They do not involve huge effort or cost on the part of staff.They are the kinds of thing that are most likely to generate word-of-mouth recommendations.So, if you were to adopt this philosophy, what kind of 'extras' might you provide to other teachers wanting to make use of the educational technology facilities? Remember, this could be quite important in encouraging reluctant teachers to use the technology in the future. Here are a few of my suggestions.My philosophy is that someone ought to be able to use the facilities from scratch, and walk out with a print-out of their work five minutes later. Therefore, these first suggestions are all geared towards that (although that is not the only consideration).There should be guest log-ins available, with the details on a card that is attached to the computer or laptop.Printing should be easy: no need to have to think about which printer to use, for instance, unless the choice is blindingly simple, eg between monochrome and colour.Instructions should be available -- on the walls, on the desks, perhaps even on the computer itself.Assistance should be available if needed, perhaps from a classroom assistant or a technician.I also believe that your working environment should be pleasant and welcoming, so I should recommend one or more of the following:Get rid of all those notices telling people what they can't do. It just creates a depressing, negative atmosphere.Make sure the keyboards are clean. When I use the tech facilities in a school, I don't expect to have to use an alcohol-based hand wash afterwards.Make sure the monitors are dust-free, as far as they can be. Why should people have to risk eye or skin irritation?Make sure the environment is clean and pleasant. When I work at home I am not surrounded by screwed up print-outs on my desk and floor, so why should I have to be in that environment in a school?You might say that these things aren't your job, and I'd agree. But I'd argue that it is your job to make sure they get done. Your role may be that of a 'technology evangelist', working alongside teachers and encouraging them to use the technology rather than having a direct part to play in the provision of such facilities. Even so, your job is going to be that much harder to do if the physical environment is deeply unpleasant.Incidentally, in case this post seems predicated on the existence of a computer lab, pretty much the same arguments apply in other circumstances. If, for example, you[...]

Web 2.0 Projects Ebook Update

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 09:48:23 +0100

The free eBook I published about a year ago, 60 Web 2.0 Projects, has been very popular, with around 11,000 downloads to date. However, new applications have become available, some of the links in the book no longer work, and new projects have been undertaken. For these reasons I am hoping to update the book and bring out a second edition. Would you like to contribute?  I am not looking for ‘best practice’ as such. The most-valued aspect of the current book is the wealth of ideas it contains. (Teachers, being the creative type, can always adapt the ideas to their own circumstances, such as by making the assignments simpler or harder for a different age group.)  The reason I say this is that many people, especially new teachers, are a bit backward in coming forward when calls for submissions are made, thinking that they have little to contribute. In fact, it is often the case that it’s the newer teachers come up with ideas that more established ones wouldn’t have thought of! The current edition is still available. In the second edition, I should like to also include information about what barriers there are to implementing Web 2.0 in the classroom, and how people have overcome them; and what people’s favourite Web 2.0 applications are. If you would like to contribute, you will find an online form for that purpose. It should take you only a few minutes to complete. The deadline is midnight British Summertime on 30 September 2009. (If you contributed to the first edition, you should have received an email earlier in the week.) If your entry is included in the next edition of the projects book, it will be available to anyone who wants it, on the internet.  I have to declare a bit of a vested interest in undertaking this update now, as opposed to some time in the future. I’ve been invited to give some talks on Web 2.0, so now seems like a good time to update the book. Obviously, I will be mentioning the eBook in my talks, which should lead to people downloading it and, therefore, seeing your contribution. If you are considering submitting something, but are concerned about whether it is appropriate, just get in touch and ask me. Or simply complete the online form, which will probably take you a similar amount of time anyway. [...]

Five Minute Fiction: The Big Sweep

Fri, 11 Sep 2009 11:10:58 +0100

Jack Alibi knew how to work. He also knew how to work a scam. Sure, going legit was good, but it took time. Lack of time was something Alibi had plenty of.He knew from the wire that the local school was being rebuilt, and that they were looking to put in a heap of technology. As far as Alibi was concerned, selling computers was like a licence to print money.He staked out the school and got to know the movements of the big cheese, a classy dish who barely looked old enough to have left school, let alone run one. One night he waited in a doorway for her to pass.As she did he started walking and brought himself up alongside her.“Hey, honey”, he grinned. “How about a little coffee?”She didn’t respond, except maybe her pace stepped up a notch.Alibi went into phase two of his plan.“I hear you’re looking for high tech stuff. Maybe I can cut you a sweet deal.”She ignored him, but he continued.“That stuff costs a lot of lettuce. That means less to spend on a fancy office and all the trimmings. Maybe I can help out.”She stopped and glared at him.“Oh yeah?”, she said. “And why would you wanna be helping someone you don’t even know?”“On account that I’m community-minded. Besides, I’d hate to see a classy dame like you being taken for a ride. I can get what you need at a whole lot less.”She remained motionless, but a quick glint in her eye let Alibi know she was interested.“OK”, she said. “Let’s suppose I’m interested, which I ain’t. But let’s be hypothetical. What are you offering, and what’s your rake-off?”Alibi was ready for that: he’d done his homework.“I get all the tech you need, on a no questions asked basis. Hypothetically. As for me, I work on commission, 5% of the value of the merchandise. That hardly pays my rent. But Like I said, I’m community-minded.”She looked at him like he was something that was tossed out in the garbage the night before.“Yeah, I can see you’re all heart. OK, muscle head, you talk big, but maybe that’s all you do? Talk, I mean. My guess is that this ‘merchandise’ is old cast-off junk, right? That ain’t no use to me. I just took over running this joint, see? I’m the new broom around here, and there’s gonna be one hell of a big sweep. No jackass like you is gonna louse things up for me.”“OK, sister, I get the picture, but you got me all wrong. I tell ya, lady, this stuff is so new it uses technology that ain’t even been invented yet.”She reached inside her bag. Alibi’s hand went instinctively to inside his coat. She pulled out a packet of gaspers, put one to her lips. He lit it for her.“I tell you what I’m gonna do”, she purred. “I’m gonna think about it.”She drew on the butt and let out a plume of smoke.“Well, I thought about it. No.”“No? How come?”“Well, Buster, I just remembered the advice my daddy gave me when I was knee-high to a cricket.”“Oh yeah? And what might that be?”“Never accept suites from strangers.”Thanks to William Denton for his Dictionary of Hardboiled Slang. If you enjoyed this, you may also like my Jason Fox short story.This story was first published in Computers in Classrooms, along with articles about websites for learning Chinese, using cartoons and comics, using new technology, an ICT skills course for education and much more. Why not sign up for free now![...]

The law says...

Tue, 8 Sep 2009 08:25:53 +0100

The latest issue of Computers in Classrooms looks at using cartoons and comics.

The image above was created using ComicBrush in accordance with its terms and conditions.

This issue, which will be published at 11 am today, features the following articles:

    * News and view
    * Building a 21st century school: post-script to the White Paper
    * The end of Becta et al? Or, should the Centre for Policy Studies be abolished?
    * Back to work
    * Teaching yourself Chinese
    * Five minute fiction: The Big Sweep
    * Using new technologies to enhance learning experiences
    * The European Pedagogical ICT Licence course
    * Using cartoons and comics
    * Forthcoming special issues
    * Information
To subscribe (it's free!), go to the sign-up page.

Terry's Two Minute Tips #14: Starting Work As A New ICT Co-ordinator

Mon, 7 Sep 2009 00:16:20 +0100

(image) It's been some time since I recorded a '2 minute tip', so I was quite pleased when Anthony Evans asked me to record a few thoughts on what new ICT (Ed Tech) Co-ordinators should do when they start their job.

I've embedd
ed the video below, but before you watch it I'd like to say a few extra things:

Firstly, I think the advice applies as much to established' ICT Co-ordinators as newly-appointed ones.

Secondly, I believe that one of the worst mistakes a new appointee can make is to go in like a bull in a china shop making sweeping changes. If certain things have not been done, there may be a quite legitimate reason for that. So another tip I wouild add is to make small changes that make a big difference, rather than big changes that confuse and upset people. (That can always come later!)

For example, I once established myself as a 'good post-holder', and raised the attractiveness of using the computer suites, by the sim
ple expedient of buying a few really cheap printers and setting them up in each computer lab. Until then, everyone had to print to a central printer -- and were unable to collect their work until the ICT leader was around to let them into the closed room in which the printer was kept. There were understandable reasons for that state of affairs: the printer was in the same room as the network server, and the server cost a small fortune. But in practical and pragmatic terms, it made it difficult to use the equipment to its full potential.

Anyway, I hope you find the video useful. Subscribers to Computers in Classrooms have already been given the link. If you want to be the first to know next time, sign up to this free ezine now!If you'd like to suggest further topics to cover in these videos, please go to the wiki I've set up for that purpose. To view previous ones, please go to my page on Seesmic.


Computers in Classrooms -- next edition

Wed, 2 Sep 2009 11:09:42 +0100

The latest edition of Computers in Classrooms will be on the virtual news stands tomorrow, ie 3rd September 2009), if all goes according to schedule. It’s a bumper edition, and free, and here is a summary of what’s in it.

  • News and reviews, including free resources.
  • Back to work: a guide to some useful articles to help people get off to a good start.
  • Teaching yourself Chinese: Adrienne Blaser evaluates ten relevant websites, three of them in depth.
  • Five Minute Fiction: The Big Sweep A hard-boiled tale concerning a new school build.
  • Using new technologies to enhance learning experiences: Kevin Mc Laughlin discusses four applications and how he uses them.
  • The European Pedagogical ICT licence (EPICT) course: Neil Howie explains what this is and why it is useful.
  • Using cartoons and comics: how to make use of free cartoons and even get the kids creating their own, using free or almost free resources.












Illustration from Adrienne Blaser’s article.

To have this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox, just complete the brief sign-up form and then confirm your wish to subscribe when you receive the automated response.

I am currently in the process of trying out various blog clients, and will report on my experiences in due course. I have created this post using BlogJet.

The end of Becta et al? Or, Should the Centre for Policy Studies be abolished?

Tue, 1 Sep 2009 16:11:52 +0100

The Centre for Policy Studies is a conservative (note the small ‘c’) think tank. It has published a document called School Quangos: a blueprint for abolition and reform, in which the authors look at each of the education-related non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) in the UK and argue that they should either be radically changed or abolished altogether.Should we take it seriously?I think it is always useful to scrutinise the work, and the value for money, of these kinds of organisations. However, this report is spoilt for me by its obvious partisanship. This is evidenced in a single sentence: “Independent [i.e. fee-paying] schools should not be subject to inspection.” If the authors really were as concerned about value for money as the document suggests, this sentence would not have appeared. If parents are being asked to pay for their child’s education they have every right to expect the school to be held accountable, and I don’t see why that should not be the case for independent schools as well as state-funded schools. The report does not look at technology specifically, but it seems to me that one of the key issues is not whether the organisations provide value for money according to some narrow criteria, but whether they do so when the wider social costs and benefits are taken into account. For example, if you take the myguide website, I do not see how its setting up and running can be cost-effective, in ordinary accounting terms, considering that its resources are completely free for people to use at the point of consumption. However, if its instructions on how to spot internet scams prevents some people from losing money, and helps to reduce identity theft, then it probably is cost-effective. The value of NDPBs is that they are able to take a wider view than an organisation that has to always balance the books in a narrow way. However, I do think the principle of scrutinising them is a good one, if only from the point of view of Milton Friedman’s (the economist, and no relation) rubric. He asserted that when people buy goods and services, they have one or both of two main motivations: to maximise value for money, and to minimise expenditure. However, your incentive to do either depends on whose money you are spending, and on whom you are spending it. Thus we obtain this table:    Whose money? Spent on whom? Incentive to minimise spending? Incentive to maximise value for money? Your own Yourself Yes Yes Your own Someone else Yes No (“It’s the thought that counts”) Someone else’s Yourself No Yes Someone else’s Someone else No No  Looked at like that, nobody in public service has any incentive to spend taxpayers’ money on a third party (schools, teachers etc) in a way that guarantees value for money or which minimises expenditure. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a cynical viewpoint, but Friedman does have a point. Surely, though, the answer is not to simply abolish public sector organisations but to ensure that they are accountable – which, indeed, they are. I suspect that the publishers do not actually want too much of a debate. Otherwise, why publish the report in August, when a lot of people in education are on vacation? Still, it’s always good to debate these sorts of issues, and by[...]

Lasting till Christmas

Tue, 1 Sep 2009 01:00:46 +0100

Well, the new term — indeed, school year — has started or is about to start, so you may think it is somewhat premature to be thinking about Christmas already! However, in my experience the autumn (Fall) term is the toughest of the lot, and the final few weeks can be purgatory. How can you and others in your team avoid that situation? Here are some suggestions, with links to articles you may find useful.I think the key is planning. You know the old adage, failure to plan is planning to fail. Well, it's true. In fact, non-planning brings a double whammy:Firstly, having everything become urgent all the time is stressful. Secondly, the very thought that "I don't feel like I'm coping very well" is stressful No, it is much better to plan well from the outset.So what does planning involve? Well, as you'd expect, there's the bread and butter stuff like making sure you have a good scheme of work to follow. In my opinion, a "good" scheme of work is one which you and your colleagues have constructed or amended yourselves over a period of time. There is no point in reinventing wheels for the sake of it, of course, but on the other hand I don't think it's possible to teach effectively from a bought, and unmodified, scheme of work or from an awarding body's syllabus. To use a well-worn expression, a team needs to have ownership of  the curriculum in order to teach it effectively and vibrantly.For me, that leads on to delegation. One of the first tasks a new ICT leader should do is find out the strengths and weaknesses of her team members,m and then delegate responsibilities accordingly. Doing so can reduce the burden on you, and also give team members valuable experience which they can cite when going for promotion themselves. You will, however, need to build in opportunities for colleagues to do a few things which, perhaps are outside their comfort zone, which is where the next idea comes in.One aspect of delegation is to give team members responsibility for individual units of work. I discussed this under the heading 'Motivational factors' in Business thought leaders and their relevance to educational technology leadership 03: Frederick Herzberg, but basically the idea is that you ask each team member to take on the responsibility for a unit of work, including resources preparation and training the team if necessary.Another good idea is to do some stocktaking as soon as possible, to find out what will need replenishing soon. it's awful to suddenly run out of something.Make sure you have some great professional development lined up for the term. I discussed over twenty ideas in Twenty One Ideas for an ICT or Technology Co-ordinators’ Day. Plan your team meetings in good time. That will help everyone get more out of them. You should find Special team meetings: 29 ideas useful in this respect. And on the subject of meetings, if you conduct them in a professional, ie formal, manner, in my opinion you get a lot more done and it's less stressful for everyone than having informal meetings all the time. Those are great, and can lead to a lot of good stuff being done, but equally they can lead to time and energy being wasted as people try to remember who said who was going to do what. The article on formalising meetings explains what to do.If you're in charge of technical support too, try planning what tasks should be undertaken when, and by whom. The article o[...]

In praise of silliness

Wed, 26 Aug 2009 08:54:45 +0100

I am all in favour of the experiment by an ATM company in London which sees instructions in rhyming slang on some of its cash machines.People tend to be too serious, and sometimes you can achieve quite a lot in terms of making people think, or even improving learning, through the interjection of a bit of mild humour.I’m not suggesting that these ATMs will educate people, but that a similar principle might be introduced into the school environment. When I was running an ICT department in a school, I sometimes used to put up silly notices along the lines of:"Is you is or is you ain't printing? If so…"(From the song Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?)OK, so it didn’t produce guffaws, but then it wasn’t meant to. Just about every ICT suite has notices saying what you can’t do, what is forbidden. The overall effect is to put people on edge, in my opinion. You can grab people’s attention with an unusual and slightly humorous headline, and then state a few rules. I believe that the light-hearted opening puts them in the right, ie receptive, frame of mind.Humour is fine to use in other places too, especially when the work can get pretty intense. I tweaked a spreadsheet once so that at the top, in the title bar, it read:"Mr Freedman says: Get on with your work!"I also had a button which said"Click here in case of an emergency".Inevitably, clicking on it caused a message to pop up stating:"This is not an emergency! Stop messing about!"My coup de grace, however, was recording myself saying "Stop that and get back to your work", and assigning the sound file to one of the windows events on a stand-alone computer. It was quite humorous to see the reaction of a pupil experiencing it for the first time!Of course, it goes without saying that such frivolity will not work if you have not already established classroom discipline and have really interesting work for the students to do. My aim was to try to replicate a workplace environment, in the sense that in a normal, healthy work environment people work, have a bit of a break, exchange some banter, and get on with their work. Why should school be any different?Related article: Fings ain’t wot they used to be.[...]

Getting Off To A Good Start

Mon, 24 Aug 2009 08:38:17 +0100

IntroductionSo, you're about to start a new job as leader or manager of educational ICT. Just over a year ago we published a list of things you could do in order to make an effective start. This tied in with a series about making a good impression, by Alison Skymes.Here's another article on the same theme, with 21 suggestions.Ask for some space on the staff noticeboardHaving an ICT section of the staffroom achieves two things. Firstly, it's a very practical way of making information available to your colleagues. Secondly, it serves as a reminder to everyone that ICT exists.Write an entry for the staff bulletinHow often you do this, and what sort of entry, will be determined by the nature and frequency of the bulletin. If it's a weekly sheet informing staff of current things they need to know, an occasional entry like "The printer in room 4 has been replaced. If you'd like any help with using the new one, please see the ICT technician, Freda Bloggs" would be appropriate.However, if it is more of a magazine-type publication that comes out once a term, offer to write a regular piece under a heading such as "Computer Corner" or "Tony's Tips".Get to know your teamIf you have only just joined the school, you don't know the members of your team, and they don't know you, so in your first team meeting ask each person to say who they are and what they do. For example, one of them might be the Child Protection Officer, or in charge of the stationery cupboard.I would advise against giving anyone more than 2 minutes at the most -- including yourself. Quite frankly, nobody is interested in your career history: they will assume that, as you have got the job, you must be able to do it.Find out who's doing good stuff in ICTNot just in your team, but in the school in general. Ask your team. Maybe, for example, one of the science teachers has a penchant for databases. That was my experience once, and she not only promoted the use of ICT in science, but also ran staff in-service training sessions for me on how to use the database application we had in school.Find out about technical supportWho does it? Are you in charge of them, or is a completely separate department? What do you have to do in order to get technical support?Depending on the answers to these questions, you will not only find out some useful practical information for yourself, but they may flag up some issues that you may want to take up at a later time.Start or streamline an equipment loan systemI've been into quite a few schools where non-ICT staff were either not aware that they could borrow equipment, or the system for borrowing equipment was either noon-existent or convoluted. If part of your job involves promoting the use of educational technology across the curriculum, this is something that will need sorting out.Wall displays (1)If you're allowed to, use the wall space outside the ICT rooms to display useful information and pupils' work.Wall display (2)As above, but inside the rooms. Don't take the easy way out by using some poster that appeared in an educational magazine 7 years ago. Start a review of the scheme of workDoes it reflect your aims for the students? Does it need updating? Is it so dated that it needs replacing altogether? You don't have to answer these questions straight away, of course -- the important thing is to start asking th[...]

I can see clearly now...

Fri, 14 Aug 2009 12:30:28 +0100

If you use computers regularly, you may be eligible for a free eye test. It’s well worth getting your eyes tested recently, as I discovered…As it happens, the last time I had my eyes tested was just a few months ago, when I was told my prescription hadn’t changed much in the last year. However, finding that I was reading less and less on the screen, and noticing that I was often tired from reading, I decided to seek a second opinion. I went to an independent optician, ie not one that was part of a chain.I was told that my current glasses had not taken account of the fact that I need a prism to correct some faulty alignment in my vision. It’s all too technical for me, but basically when I was shown a red line it appeared to be off-centre. So I went ahead and ordered a new pair of specs, and I have to say the difference is profound. I can read for hours without getting tired, and everything has a greater clarity.There was an added bonus: the lens coating used cuts down on reflected glare, as you can see in these before and after photographs. It makes recording videos just that bit easier.Here’s an article about free eye tests in Britain:Computer Eye Tests.    Related articles by Zemanta      Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Eye Sight (     Had Your Eyes Checked Lately? (    Glasses For Computer Workers (  [...]

The code less ravelled

Wed, 5 Aug 2009 13:36:08 +0100

Some observations about troubleshooting tech problems.Yesterday was one of those days. You know the ones: you wake up in the morning full of the joys of spring, or whatever the season happens to be, raring to go, and full of grandiose plans. They were not to be realised. For a while now, the tech force has left us alone. Perhaps it was on vacation.Yesterday it returned.Actually, to be more precise, we started having some problems a week or so ago, when, for no apparent reason, our internet connection kept dropping. At that time we decided we needed a new router, and went for the best we could afford – a policy we have always found pays off in the long run. It was a state-of-the art job, with a display that not only told you what speed the connection was running at and who was on your network, and the time, but also, I am convinced, if you knew how to tweak it, the long-range weather forecast and the latest news from anywhere in the world. I think there was also a setting for picking up extra-terrestial signals.Even better, it would set itself up automatically. Except that it didn’t. Back to the shop it went, while we investigated further the intricacies of Vista-router compatibility. In the meantime, we thought a firmware upgrade to our current router would be a good idea. If only one was actually listed on the company’s website.Back to the research, and we discovered that changing the channel the router uses can solve the problem. It certainly did. We went from having intermittent connectivity to having zero connectivity.So, after much retracing of steps, I decided to use the online live help provided by the router company. (It’s a bizarre thing to note: the instruction in the router we took back was that if you are having trouble setting the router up you should go on to the company’s website….)In the meantime, our laptop suddenly stopped printing, and nothing fixed it. I’ll come back to that in a moment.The live help was actually quite good, up to a point. For example, they gave me a link to the firmware upgrade, which was buried in an arcane section of their website which was not findable by their search facility. So that was excellent. They also told me how to reset my router, a procedure which they recommended. What they did not tell me was that that would erase our security setting on our wireless network. OK, I know it’s pretty obvious, but when you’ve spent a day looking at a computer monitor and developing a vitamin D deficiency through lack of sunlight, it may not be the first thing that comes to mind. It certainly wasn’t in my case. Fortunately, a teacher from New York I know gave me the name and email address of a school technician who proved extremely helpful – not least for reminding me to re-establish my wireless network security.None of this was helped by our broadband supplier’s announcement that there had been major connectivity problems in the whole of the country. So perhaps at least some of the time we were struggling to get a connection, there wasn’t a connection to be got (sorry about the ugly use of the word ‘got’, but it gives the sentence a certain rhythm, don’t you think?).So what have I done to resolve the issue? I went into the router settings and told it to undo all changes. I had b[...]

Why web stats are important, and the top ten articles for January 2009

Mon, 3 Aug 2009 17:45:17 +0100

If you have your own blog or website, it’s worth spending some time looking at the statistics. I don’t mean simply the number of 'hits' received, which I think is pretty meaningless, or even the number of times particular articles are viewed.More interesting to me is the number of times a particular article is viewed at a particular point in time. In some cases, it’s obvious why a particular article should be popular, for example if it is topical. In such cases, there may be a burst of activity, followed by pretty much nothing. A case in point is my article announcing my Briefing on ICT in the Rose Review of the primary curriculum in England and Wales. This received thousands of views over a couple of months.I can understand that; what is more difficult to comprehend is why my review of the Rate My Teacher website is still receiving hundreds of views a month despite having been written nearly four years ago.I think this illustrates a number of things:Firstly, you cannot judge how potentially influential an article is by the number of comments it receives. I don’t know if the responses to my articles are high, low or average. (I’ve previously noted the existence of the 1% rule, which states that only around 1% of any community is active in any sense, generally speaking: most people simply do not comment on articles.) However, the fact that some articles are still being viewed despite being years old suggests that quite a few people have read and are reading them, and one would presume, thinking about them.Secondly, it’s important to keep old articles available. I’ve been looking at redesigning this website, and a couple of people have told me that if I have a new design then all the current content should be moved accordingly. The trouble is, all those people with bookmarked links to articles in their current location will be inconvenienced, and I’m not sure whether Google would re-index them efficiently (that’s not an implied criticism of Google, simply an admission that I don’t know enough about such things to feel confident that the articles would still be findable). I know I can create web page redirects, but I don’t have the time to do so or the resources to pay someone else to. Thirdly, it’s important to look at your website’s statistics. I use a couple of packages provided by my web hosting company, but Google Analytics is both well-regarded and free.By finding out how many times a particular article has been viewed, you could, if you were so inclined, endeavour to improve the popularity of your blog or website by writing similar articles in future. I have to say that that does not appeal to me, as it does not seem honest in an indefinable sort of way. I prefer to write about things I care about, not what I think is going to make me more popular. In any case, other factors come into play, such as topicality (as already mentioned) and whether or not you happen to have caught the zeitgeist. More interesting, to me anyway, is to chart the popularity or otherwise of a particular post over time, and to try to imagine why. I also think it’s interesting to see what people were reading on my website at any one time, so I have compiled a top ten articles list for each month from January to Ju[...]

E is for everything – but why?

Wed, 29 Jul 2009 15:53:19 +0100

There is an unfortunate tendency for e-learning evangelists to try and come with as many e-words as possible when promoting the benefits of e-learning. Why?I suppose the idea is to generate excitement, and to energise one’s colleagues. But to my mind, this is mere gimmickry. I’ve seen it done with the 'C' in ICT as well. That stands for 'communication' or 'communications', but I’ve known people to embellish and complement it with 'collaborate', 'co-operation' and the like.(Curiously, I have never seen it done with 'd', as in 'digital', or any other letter.)If that is all there was too it, this tendency would be merely annoying. However, I believe it has a subtle -- but real – derogatory effect, in two ways.Firstly, just as it is often the case that a piece of writing is diminished in direct proportion to the number of adjectives used, so is the authority of a discipline lessened as more and more attributes are generated for it. It seems to denote a certain lack of confidence: you don't see geography teachers babbling on about how good, great or gritty their subject is; you don't hear historians trying to convince people that their area of study brings happiness, or that it reduces harm or hubris.To quote from Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks".Secondly, and worse, it can actually do some positive harm. As long as the myth is propagated that e-learning is different to learning, or that an e-portfolio is fundamentally different to a portfolio, some teachers and their principals will quite happily continue as if the e-revolution has nothing to do with them. Worse, concerns over e-safety could easily mask the fact that all teachers should feel responsible for children’s safety, and that there is not a subset of safety that can be delegated to the ICT staff.As far as I am concerned, the sooner we drop the 'e' from everything, the better.On the subject of e-portfolios, Ray Tolley has asked me to pass on this message:"I am particularly interested in hearing from those who have a real conviction about the place of e-Portfolios in teaching and learning.  I cannot say more at this moment in time, but if interested parties could just respond  to me for the moment I hope to have more news to release shortly."You can email Ray at rjt[at]    Related articles by Zemanta      Free download: E-Learning Survival Guide (    The tyranny of relevance (  [...]

What does a broken clock signify?

Tue, 21 Jul 2009 10:23:09 +0100

This sounds like an odd kind of question to pose on an educational technology website, but bear with me. A couple of days ago I went to my local swimming pool and the clock on the wall was tilted at an angle, and stuck at ten to six (it was three in the afternoon). So that got me thinking: does a broken clock indicate that the management really doesn't care that much about such details because they are regarded as unimportant in comparison too customer service issues. Or does it imply that the management is so focused on what the reception area looks like, in order to attract more customers, that anything else takes second place? That second supposition is based on one of Parkinson's Laws, which basically states that the more attention an organisation pays to reception areas and suchlike, the closer it is to collapse: "It is now known that a perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the verge of collapse. During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done." From C. Northcote Parkinson's The Law, or Still in Pursuit As it happens, the clock on the wall of my swimming pool is essential for health and safety reasons: a notice proclaims that it is inadvisable to spend more than 20 minutes in the spa, so the clock is more than mere adornment. I was pleased to note that it had been repaired by the next time I attended. But all this made me think: how do heads of ICT deal with a broken down computer in a computer room? I have seen a number of practices, and I've listed them here in reverse order of desirability. The computer shows no visible sign of anything being wrong This is by far the worst way of dealing with the situation, and there is no excuse for it unless the computer has literally just gone wrong. It not only causes frustration, it can cause mayhem in a class situation. Moreover, to any technology-averse teacher it merely serves to confirm their belief that either they and technology don't get on (see The Tech Force) or that it is inherently unreliable. The keyboard is stacked on top of the monitor This is often used as a quick way of indicating that a computer is not to be used. However, it can also indicate that someone was cleaning the table and needed to move the keyboard out of the way, and forgot to put it back. The computer is disassembled, and left on the workbench This at least has the merit that nobody is likely to mistakenly think it's all in working order. But it looks untidy, and lazy. It shouts: "I have spent a few minutes taking this out of commission, but I have far more important things to do than taking it out of sight altogether." There is an Out Of Order sign on it This at least should prevent people mistakenly trying to use it. However, it is not unknown for urchins to place the notice on a different machine entirely, thereby causing double mayhem in a lesson. There is an Out of Order sign with an apology for inconvenience caused OK, this is better. At least it has more of a customer-focused feel about it. But it doesn't help me much if I want to use the computer or bring a class in. There is an[...]

Latest Computers in Classrooms now available

Thu, 16 Jul 2009 08:08:14 +0100

The last Computers in Classrooms of the school year has now been published. The main items in it are:  News   Using computers to raise standards in mathematics   The White Paper: your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century school system   Amazing Greats The News section contains details of our games software prize draw winner, the revised publication schedule of the special issues of the newsletter and, crucially, details of an opportunity to submit a proposal to speak at BETT 2010. The BETT show is the largest educational technology sow in Britain, and receives visitors from all over the world.In ‘Using computers to raise standards in mathematics’ I give you a sneak preview of one of the interviews I carried out at the recent Cars Maths in Motion event. I interviewed the schoolgirl who has been designing the track for the past three years. You can read about the event itself in the reference given below.This issue also looks in depth at the latest White Paper in terms of its implications for ICT teachers.Finally, ‘Amazing Greats’ looks at the most popular articles on the ICT in Education website over the past two and a half months, and draws a few conclusions about influence which may be of interest to (new) bloggers.Why not sign up now for this free newsletter?   Related articles by Zemanta      Cars Maths in Motion (    The Best Free Algebra Homework Help Websites (  [...]

ICT in the White Paper on building a 21st century school system

Wed, 15 Jul 2009 07:33:40 +0100

The British Government recently published it’s much-anticipated White Paper on building a 21st century schools system.

What did it have to say about the role of information and communications technology (ICT), and what are the implications for teachers?

In the next issue of Computers in Classrooms we look at the following areas:

  • The place of ICT in schools
  • Buildings and ICT
  • The role of ICT in administration and communication
  • Professional development

The next issue of the newsletter is scheduled to go out at 22:00 British Summer Time on 15 July 2009. To make sure you obtain your free copy, please subscribe now!

What makes a good teacher as far as technology is concerned?

Thu, 9 Jul 2009 10:13:11 +0100

I’m interested in exploring this question,  which I have phrased very carefully. I think whether you’re a teacher of information and communications technology, or someone who teaches with educational technology, there are some common denominators of what makes the teaching good. These are all my ideas and conjectures; I have stated them as though they are facts purely in order to avoid clumsy circumlocutions.The first requirement is a willingness to experiment and take chances. You never really know whether something is going to work until you try it. A piece of software may be great when used by an individual, but not scale up very well when used with a class. For example, I came across a program a few years ago which made commenting on a student’s work very easy: it was possible to give comprehensive feedback in only 5 minutes by clicking various buttons. But that would mean 150 minutes for a class of 30 students, and a day’s work for four or five classes. Clearly, it was the sort of ‘solution’ you may wish to use with one or two special case students, but not with whole classes. But you wouldn’t know that until you had sat down with the software and spent time using it and thinking about it.Not everything is within the individual teacher’s control. I am thinking in particular of my next requirement: the opportunity to experiment. Too many schools, in England and Wales at any rate, are so frightened of being named and shamed for not having achieved the requisite number of A*-C passes at GCSE that it takes a very brave, stupid or fortunate teacher to feel that they have the time and the support to be able to try things out, especially given the amount of stuff that has to be covered in the curriculum. I admire all those who do, and the colleagues who enable them to do so.A third requirement is for intellectual honesty. I think one of the most difficult things to do is to admit to oneself, let alone one’s colleagues, that as far as achieving X is concerned, the last 3 weeks have been less successful than one would have liked. But there are a few counters to this way of looking at things:Firstly, adopt the scientific view: an experiment is only a failure if it yields no results at all, ie you find out nothing from it. If you get negative results, you’ve learnt something which will be useful to both yourself and your colleagues.Secondly, take a cost-benefit approach. Basically, even if the experiment looks like having been a waste of time, if the benefits outweigh the costs, than it hasn’t been. This is all a bit subjective, of course, but let’s consider an example. Suppose the use of a website or application has added nothing to the knowledge of 29 of the students in your class, meaning that you wasted a few hours preparing the lessons based on it, and those 29 pupils have wasted the one or two lessons they spent on it. But at the same time, one student, who was thinking of quitting the course, and who has already mentally opted out, is suddenly fired up by the experience and really starts to ‘get it’. It’s arguable that the net gain has outweighed t[...]

My Foray into Blog TV

Tue, 7 Jul 2009 20:26:54 +0100

I’ve been messing around with a live webcasting service called BlogTV. Last night I went live for the first time.  I sent out a message on Twitter about 15 minutes before starting, and I was astonished to see that around a dozen people came along. It was very kind of them because there wasn’t an awful lot in it for them: this was an experiment, after all, and it took me about 20 minutes to realise that you can allow guests to speak, for example.  I am afraid that I don't know everyone who turned up, but thanks to all, especially Lisa Durff for helpful comments. Vicki Davis turned up (I saw her online in Skype and invited her to join us), and immediately set about doing two things.   First, she broadcast to her own Twitter network that this was going on. I had to ask her to cease and desist! After all, this was only an experiment!  Second, once in the room, she devoted all her comments to an advertisement that had appeared on her screen showing bikini-clad young women. I will return to this shortly.Other people who turned up include Shelly Terrell, Suzie Nestico, Jerry Green, and Anne Hodgson. Sorry for leaving some people out - it means I can't find them online.Everyone was immensely helpful, being willing to act as co-hosts (thanks to Johnny and Jerry, and also Shelly for volunteering). Also, John McClear, and John Cuthell both turned up. John couldn’t get connected properly at the time, but we had a great conversation via Skype this evening and he came up with a couple of great thoughts.  From my brief foray into the world of Blog TV, I suggest there are the following advantages and disadvantages:  Advantages     It is ridiculously easy to get up and running. I tried Mogulus a couple of years ago (I think it is now Livestream), and it seemed far too highly specified for my needs. I have no desire to become a one-man TV studio.    It’s easy to get the hang of. As you will see if you look at the couple of videos I recorded of the live broadcasting session, within about 20 minutes I’d learnt quite a bit.    It is inexpensive.    I thought at first this was a disadvantage, but both John Cuthell and my wife have pointed out the error of my thinking. The recordings are limited to 10 minutes in length. That is actually very good: a 10 minute to talk about or have a discussion about a topic keeps one focused. It also makes for less editing, which is extremely time-consuming, and smaller files, not to mention less searching for the bit you want to see.    It’s easy to set up quick polls.    You can announce your show on Twitter (I think) and via email. Bizarrely, I already have about a dozen subscriubers! Very nice of them, although I have no idea who they are yet.  Disadvantages     Well, a big disadvantage has to be the sort of ads that pop up. I haven’t seen the bikini-clad girl that Vicki referred to, but another one insists on being shown in which there is a lady whose sole purpose in life appears to be to [...]

Cars Maths in Motion

Mon, 6 Jul 2009 00:21:41 +0100

Like many people, I left school without too much confidence in, or liking for, mathematics. It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to work out why. When, for example, one of my fellow pupils asked what the point of trigonometry was, the answer he received consisted of:"Are you trying to be impudent, boy?",followed by the imposition of a detention.Another teacher had a novel approach to teaching: if you didn't understand the stuff in the lesson, you had a 90 minute detention in which to practise with test papers until you did -- all in utter silence while the 'teacher' (I use the term loosely) did his marking. As you can see, counsellor, all this left a deep and lasting impression, and not a positive one either. So you will understand when I tell you that when Val Brooks, of the Stockton City Learning Centre, invited me to spend a day observing youngsters doing maths, I did not immediately run to my calendar to cancel all my engagements for the day. However, such was Val's powers of persuasion and descriptions of the activity in question that I ended up rearranging my diary in order to be able to attend.I'm glad I did.Cars Maths in Motion (CMIM) is a valiant attempt to make maths not merely relevant, but fun. The aim of the software is to enable you to program a car in such a way that it can win a simulated Grand Prix race. That involves using mathematics to work out the length of the track, and the angles of the bends, and therefore the amount of fuel needed, which depends on both speed and distance.In fact, if only it were that simple! You can also adjust engine tuning, aerodynamic downforce, gear ratios and suspension. You can even decide whether you're going to be a careful driver or a bit of a risk-taker. You also have to take account of the weather.Three things struck me at the event, which was the grand competition to find the best team in each of three age groups, primary, 11-14 and 15-16. Firstly, the youngsters were using rulers, bits of string and protractors. In this hi-tech day and age, you don't quite expect to see those sorts of tools being used at all, let alone well. Secondly, the sheer enthusiasm was palpable, and I hope that comes across in the video, Cars Maths in Motion 2009, which I have embedded below. (If you'd like some yardsticks to guide you whilst watching the video, see how many of the Personal Learning and Thinking Skills you might be able to "tick off" through this activity: independent enquirers; creative thinkers; reflective learners; team workers; self-managers; effective participators. )Thirdly, whilst I was looking at the program during the event I noticed that it did not make use of the kind of graphics that people have come to expect from games (although I have since been informed by Brian Richardsonthatit does include some high-quality photography, and that the program used in the Final did not have graphics in it).Yet the only people who bemoaned the apparent lack of sophisticated graphics were a couple of young teachers. The kids had no problem with it at all, and far from dampening their enthusia[...]

The tyranny of relevance

Thu, 2 Jul 2009 15:34:23 +0100

In a recent address called 'What is education for?' to the Royal Society of Arts, Michael Gove bemoaned the fact that there is no government department in the UK whose sole remit is the pursuit of educational standards. According to Gove, education is not regarded as a good enough end in itself, but as something which can help to achieve some other goal. In his exposition of his views in favour of liberal education, he used the term 'the tyranny of relevance'. Although he wasn’t talking about Information and Communications Technology (ICT), this phrase did strike a chord with me. In the continuing debate over whether ICT should be taught as a subject in its own right, is there perhaps too much store set by 'relevance'?I’ve noticed (although, curiously, I’d never consciously noticed it before) that whenever people tell me that they think ICT should be taught through the context of other subjects, they always cite 'relevance' as a factor. They almost always throw in a reference to kids having to suffer boring lessons on spreadsheets and databases. They seem to think that having lots of lessons on e-safety and plenty of opportunities to use blogs, Google and Wikipedia will somehow turn out youngsters who can use their knowledge of technology and ability to transfer their skills to excel in subjects right across the board.Perhaps I have overstated my case slightly – but only slightly. Like Gove, I happen to think that the best kind of education is one in which students develop a deep knowledge of subjects. I like the idea of cross-curricular themes, and of making subjects 'relevant' both to each other and a wide range of issues and circumstances. However, I do not think you can achieve that without mastering individual subjects. To summarise, I regard the following statements (which are mine, not Gove’s) as axiomatic:  It is important for students to gain a deep knowledge of ICT, because only by understanding key issues (such as the difference between data and information) can they protect themselves against some forms of hype.         More positively, an understanding of how ICT can be used for 'provisional' activities, such as drafting and modelling, and an ability to appreciate the importance of precision in language (as required, for example, in 'sequencing' or programming, is essential for being able to avoid being subservient to a computer system’s apparent will.         However, even this is falling into the trap of looking for 'relevance'. Why can't ICT be studied and enjoyed for its own sake?   Far from being boring, spreadsheets and databases can be extremely interesting, even beautiful. I don’t mean just to look at, but in their design and construction.   Any teacher who makes spreadsheet or database lessons boring either has not had the time to develop interesting lessons, or does not really have a deep grasp of, and appreciation for, these areas themselves.   What we need are teachers who have a deep l[...]

My views on blogging

Wed, 1 Jul 2009 07:58:19 +0100

As part of the Teachers as Bloggers Mirandamod, I was asked to say why I blog and what my approach is. Here is the gist of what I said, with some additional information.  I have started a number of blogs in the past, many of which were private. For example, I started one as a means of keeping a record of my reading and assignments for a course, one for posting information and photos of a trip to the USA for a NECC Conference, solely for the benefit of my wife; and a blog for PGCE (teacher training) students for the purpose of maintaining a course journal.             However, the only two I really pay attention to these days is this  one and My Writes.  I use the latter for creative writing and just about anything other than educational technology. But I don’t update it as often as I think I should. The reason I say that is that I see lots of things I'd like to write about, and when I leave it too long (eg because of work deadlines) I start to forget.        I love writing, so in that sense blogging is a nice activity in itself, regardless of audience. Interestingly enough, through reading Stephen Downes' Online Daily newsletter I came across this post by Jay Cross about moving on from blogging  and going on to something called ‘lifestreaming’, on the grounds that blogging is too introspective. Well, I am with Cyril Connelly here:             "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."             This is interesting, isn’t it? We are always telling pupils they must learn to write for an audience, and for different audiences. While I would agree that those are important skills, I also think we should encourage them to write for the sake of writing, ie for self-expression  -- which can itself take many different forms.         Blogging also has the advantage of being relatively safe and always available – I have lost loads of stuff in the past through moving and as disk formats have changed, so it’s nice to be able to store my stuff in a place I can get to any time and anywhere! I think the internet is stable and reliable enough these days for me to be able to say that.         Blogging is a way of connecting with people. For that reason, I try to see it from a (potential) reader’s point of view:             -- What do they expect to see and read when they come to my blog?       -- What would just be a waste of their time?             Is this approach compatible with my (implied) view that it’s ok to blog primarily for your own enjoyment? I think it is, from the point of view that if you don’t enjoy writing then I think readers w[...]

The Tech Force

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 07:40:36 +0100

"Them things just don't like me."The woman at the end of the accusing finger pointing at my laptop edged cautiously towards the pub door, giving me a wide berth -- presumably in case the "thing" lashed out at her."I've tried, but they hate me, they do!"Easy to dismiss such talk as the incoherent prattle of someone slightly unhinged. And yet, a part of me wonders whether she is not, on some level, quite right?There certainly does appear to be a mischievous element to technology, which the failure to acknowledge can cause us to waste much time. I know this, and still I continue to apply logic to trouble-shooting issues, when what I should be doing is paying homage to, and attempting to placate, the Tech Force.Think of the Tech Force not so much as a malignant power but a mischievous one. Unseen and unrecognised, it manifests itself at times such as one hour before an important deadline, or just when you were thinking of going to bed. There is no point in applying logic to the symptoms of the Tech Force's presence; all you can do is appeal to its better nature, and acknowledge its supremacy.Over the past few days I have had ample opportunity to test my theory of the existence of the Tech Force.A few days ago, we were suddenly unable to connect to the ICT in Education website. Given that this was the only website we were unable to access, a sense of panic ensued. Fortunately, after some fruitless checking of trouble-shooting forums, I remembered that last year when this happened I was able to resolve the situation by rebooting the wireless router. This I did, and it worked.This angered the Tech Force. Yesterday, for no reason I could discern, the sound card on my computer stopped working. Restarting the computer resolved that one. I laughed at the Tech Force. "Ha!", I said. (Try saying "Ha!" to a computer: it is most satisfying.) "Ha!", I said. "You will have to do better than that!"It did. Last night I spent a miserable hour trying to figure out why I was no longer able to send any email. Receiving? No problem. Sending? Forget it. Typing the incomprehensible (to me, at any rate) error message into Google yielded nothing of any consequence. But then I looked at the error message again, and noticed that it seemed to be objecting to my IP address. I rebooted the wireless router (again), thereby obtaining a different IP address, and all was well.But not for long. This morning, I wasted 15 minutes trying to synchronise my phone's calendar with my online calendar. In desperation I tried switching the phone off and on. It worked.Last week, writer and blogger Joe Nutt coined the word "techle", which is the inadvertent interruption of a speaker by misbehaving technology. I almost agree with him: those of us who have come to know the Tech Force believe that there is nothing "inadvertent" about it.And who are we to say that Ned Ludd and his intellectual descendants were not merely unwitting instruments of the Tech Force, having a good laugh at humanity's expense?[...]

Teachers as Bloggers

Thu, 18 Jun 2009 11:40:32 +0100

Why should teachers blog, how can they go about it, and what are the issues to be aware of?These are the areas to be explored tomorrow (Friday 18 June 2009) in an afternoon/evening conference being organised by Mirandanet.There are three parts to the programme: From 2pm (British Summertime, or BST) to 4pm Ray Fleming, of Microsoft, will lead the session called ‘Teachers as Bloggers’. Then from 4pm to 6pm there will be a practical workshop. I’m not sure how this will work out, but I think it’s a great idea. All too often one attends an inspiring talk by someone, only to be left with the unanswered question: “But how to I get started?”.In the final session, from 6pm to 9pm Theo Kuechel and Drew Buddy will be considering a range of issues with, hopefully, contributions from the floor. This promises to be highly relevant, and I am hoping there will be an opportunity to discuss the implications for teachers of the recent High Court ruling in Britain that bloggers do not have the right of anonymity.Other people involved in the conference include John Cuthell, Leon Cych and Daniel Needlestone, so it should be a hotbed of discussion and insight. One of the key outcomes will, hopefully, be a concept map on this subject.If you can’t make it in person, Theo has set up a Flashmeeting for the last session. Look on the Mirandanet page for further details of the conference, and to put yourself down to take part. Finally, just to be clear, I have an interest in that I am chairing the first and third sessions, so perhaps I will meet you there.[...]

Independent Review of ICT User Skills

Wed, 17 Jun 2009 08:14:56 +0100

The Independent Review of ICT User Skills of Britain’s population has just been published. It makes for some interesting reading. Chaired by erstwhile Education Secretary Estelle Morris, the committee looked at this aspect of ‘digital Britain’ from all angles. From an educationalist’s perspective it is essential reading, I think. For a start, it summarises the various policies throughout the years, of which Harnessing Technology is but one (although there is at least one, I think, that has been omitted). I believe that such an historical perspective serves to place current policies in perspective – the more so when you consider that for the time period covered in this section the same political party has been in office. I don’t think there will be anything in here to startle people. It states, unsurprisingly, that there is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion (although there is at least some evidence that some people choose to exclude themselves digitally: see Virtual Society?: Technology, Cyberbole, Reality and The Myth of The Digital Native). Also, it makes the obvious point that more and more companies are turning to web 2.0 solutions for their internal communications (which was nicely exemplified by the company I visited yesterday as part of the Inside the Workplace events I’ve been running on behalf of the SSAT for teachers of the new Diploma.) There are some interesting points about what makes for successful teaching of ICT (remember, this is for adults, but the same would apply to youngsters too): “1. Effective provision is delivering ICT SfL [Skills for Life] in contexts that match the purpose for which the learner wishes to learn. 2. Teaching of basic ICT provision is not underpinned by a clear pedagogy, and existing  programmes are delivered by tutors with a range of qualifications and backgrounds. 3. For some learners embedding ICT SfL provision in other learning, such as literacy,  numeracy or vocational provision is an effective means of delivery.” With an outline of the plethora of ICT skills qualifications on offer in the UK, the report represents a quick way of getting to grips with the vastness of this whole area without the need to invest too much time into finding out. Thankfully, unlike many such reviews it recommends a simplification of the system rather than lots of disparate and unconnected reforms. The fundamental idea is to define a simple set of skills which would constitute an ICT entitlement, and then provide up to 9 hours support for would-be participants, who could access courses through a single point of contact. Crucially, in my view, the variety of delivery avenues, with tutor involvement kept to a minimum, reflects the importance of informal learning – except that I would add the caveat that informal learning without extremely effective materials and support can easily fail to be effective. You can acc[...]

Terry's Two Minute Tips #13: Effective Feedback

Mon, 15 Jun 2009 17:22:38 +0100

reading. E Talbert has asked me to make some comments on effective feedback for the Terry's Two Minute Tips series. So here is my response, with some useful links for further reading. In the video, I mention assessment for learning and research findings. My comments are based on the work of Black and Wiliam. In particular, Inside the Black Box was a seminal work which I believe forms the basis of the best practices in formative assessment. See also my review of Information and Communication Technology: Inside the Black Box. As it happens, I didn't mention technology in the video! This is because I think that effective feedback starts with the right principles. Once those are in place, information technology can be used to track progress and quickly highlight gaps in knowledge. It can even be used to draw out what students’ know, understand and can do through the use of computer-based scenarios. That was the basis of the on-screen test I worked on whilst at the Qualification and Curriculum Authority. If you would like to suggest a topic for this series, please go to the wiki I set up for this purpose, and I will do my best to accommodate the request.  [...]

Risk Assessment

Thu, 11 Jun 2009 11:30:05 GMT

You cannot avoid risk, so you have to manage it. Whether you’re considering installing a new computer system, or trying out a new teaching approach, how can you manage the risk sensibly and effectively? The way to do so is to carry out a risk assessment. That sounds like it could be a lot of work, but it need not be. Or at least, it can be turned into an enjoyable professional development exercise. That way, not only do you assess the risk, you also (hopefully) bring your colleagues along with you and, into the bargain, have some mind-stretching discussions as part of the process. The reason for that is simple: risk assessment tends to be fairly subjective. You can make it less so by doing some research and obtaining a range of facts and figures, but ultimately you have to take a decision, and that will involve a degree of conjecture. Risk assessment involves considering, and assigning values to, three criteria:   What can happen as a result of this course of action?  What is the likelihood of each outcome happening?  How bad will be the consequences of each thing happening? Now, in some scenarios the value assigned to the last one is so great that it crowds out any other consideration. For example, what is the likelihood of your child being abducted if you allow her to go out on her own? The answer, despite what you may think from keeping up with the daily news, is quite low in the UK. However, the consequences of that happening would be so awful as to render the low likelihood irrelevant. Thankfully, when it comes to trying out innovative teaching methods we tend not to have to countenance such extreme situations. So, let’s work through an example: Question: What might happen if I introduce the use of social networking into my lessons? You might set out a grid like this:                                                                                                                    Outcome              Likelihood of occurring               Severity of consequences      Students will fail course Low High Parents will complain Medium Medium Students will come across unsavoury people High High Now, you can start to manage all this. For example, taking the last one, you can prepare the students by teaching the[...]

Ask Miller! Final edition!

Thu, 11 Jun 2009 01:12:42 GMT

Miller (left) is a teenager living in the USA. It's always interesting to hear what young people think about educational technology, so I was delighted when Miller agreed to have a go at answering questions about it. The questions below are all genuine, ie they have been submitted by real people, not just made up by me (although I can assure that I am a real person!).Equally, Miller's answers are genuine too, which is to say she didn't receive any prompting or assistance from either her teacher, Vicki Davis, or me.Today, Miller answers these questions:  How have you been made aware of e-safety (internet safety) issues - did your school have e-safety lessons or e-safety awareness programs. Did the school have an "Acceptable Use Policy" (a set of rules for the use of computers / the internet). is e-safety an issue for American teenagers (thinking of computers, hand held devices, cell phones etc)   As a young person what do you think would be most helpful to protect young people online?   Do you think it's necessary for schools to block social networking sites like Twitter & Facebook? Do you see any benefits that students can receive from this channels of technology?   How do you feel that your use of Web 2.0 apps will change over the next couple of years?This feature on the ICT in Education website has run as an experiment run only for just a few weeks. If you have any feedback, whether about the idea itself or Miller's answers, please let me know by leaving a comment here.Also, I am in the process of writing a testimonial for Miller which may be helpful in her college applications. If you have enjoyed reading Miller’s answers, and would like to be quoted in that, please get in touch right away!How have you been made aware of e-safety (internet safety) issues - did your school have e-safety lessons or e-safety awareness programs. Did the school have an "Acceptable Use Policy" (a set of rules for the use of computers / the internet). is e-safety an issue for American teenagers (thinking of computers, hand held devices, cell phones etc)Miller replies:Hello Reader, Up until last year, I had no idea about safety issues on the internet. I knew that there had been instances where somebody had post something very bad (showy and inappropriate) on YouTube , Myspace or Facebook , but I never really knew about the horrible consequences until I took my computer fundamentals class starting in August of 2008. Our first lesson about safety came indirectly with the start of our digital citizenship course. Our class was to participate in a project with other kids from across the world. We were to study digital citizenship. I was so excited to be able to work with other kids from across the globe, but I didn't realize how significant the our study would be. Through our studies of digital citizenship, I learned[...]

Some pros and cons of online textbooks

10 Jun 2009 10:51:44 GMT GMT

I was contacted by the Guardian yesterday for my views on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plans to do away with printed textbooks and move over to textbooks online.

Here’s my response. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it into print. The reason (I assume and I hope) was that I picked up my email too late for it to be used. Journalists work on a different timescale to most bloggers, so although Anthea Lipsett from The Guardian sent me an email asking me to respond within an hour, by the time I’d seen the email the deadline was long past.

Usually, I check my email every hour or so, but I was running an Inside The Workplace event for people teaching the Diploma yesterday, so I could only check at lunchtime.

As I was racing against time, I don’t regard these musings as terribly profound. I said:

My view is that using online textbooks is fine to an extent, but  that there is a danger that what will happen is that the printing costs will be transferred from the State to families! On the other hand, young people do much of their reading online these days, and they will therefore probably be more prepared to read textbooks. Also, having online textbooks makes it much more economic to update them more frequently than is usually the case.

There are further thoughts on the matter from other people in Lipsett’s article.

What do you think?

Ask Miller!

9 Jun 2009 07:56:51 GMT GMT

Miller (left) is a teenager living in the USA. It's always interesting to hear what young people think about educational technology, so I was delighted when Miller agreed to have a go at answering questions about it. The questions below are all genuine, ie they have been submitted by real people, not just made up by me (although I can assure that I am a real person!).Equally, Miller's answers are genuine too, which is to say she didn't receive any prompting or assistance from either her teacher, Vicki Davis, or me.Today, Miller answers these questions:  Do you do think that technology in teaching is better than face-to-face teaching?  Do you ever use virtual worlds to socialize, like ‘Second Life’?  What mobile devices are students in America using, and what are they used for?This feature on the ICT in Education website has run as an experiment run only for just a few weeks. If you have any feedback, whether about the idea itself or Miller's answers, please let me know by leaving a comment here.Do you think that technology in teaching is better than face-to-face teaching? Miller replies:Hello Reader,I believe that in teaching with technology, students can get a hands-on grasp at what they are doing. As a student, I can honestly say that I learn better by doing than just listening. It is hard to concentrate while your teacher is sitting at the front of the room lecturing to the students (no offense to any teacher that does) to really grasp what they are saying and let the knowledge sink in. One way that we taught through technology was through virtual worlds, which I have explained in more detail in my answer to the next question. That way, students learn by doing. They learn by enjoying themselves in the cool virtual rooms that we created. I promise you, you learn much better when you are having fun.Do you ever use virtual Worlds to socialize, like "Second Life"? Miller replies:Dear Reader,I love virtual worlds. As a matter of fact, my ninth grade class(14 and 15 year olds) started using virtual worlds back during November of 2008 to teach seventh graders(12 and 13 year olds) at our school about digital citizenship. We started using Google Lively. Lively was a great place to take the seventh graders into, so that they may learn. They loved it! We continued to have two more lessons  in Lively before Google announced that they would be shutting it down in December. After hearing the news, we decided to protest to Google. We became the Digiteen Dream Team. We set up a blog on which we would post daily posts giving Google reasons to keep Lively. We gained much support for our cause, but in the end, Google shut Lively down. We were so upset because our precious virtual world had been shut down. In defeat, we also found victory. A very generous[...]

Review of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog

8 Jun 2009 23:36:51 +0100 GMT

 As the title suggests, this book is concerned with helping you improve your blog. Written by Darren Rowse, founder of Problogger, it started life as a series of daily blog posts and, latterly, a daily email task if you signed up to the course.So, how good is it, and does it represent value for money – especially if you have already read all the posts?Before looking at the book itself, let’s examine why this might be of interest to you in the first place. I think there are two potential ‘hooks’ for a book of this nature.Firstly, many educationalists have a blog these days, or have an interest in an online presence of some description (for example, their school’s website or blog).Secondly, I get the impression that a lot of people have a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality when talking about setting up blogs for their students. For most people this is not the case, and they will have to be more active and proactive than that.Having said that, it’s important to bear in mind, I think, that these posts were not written with education in mind. In one sense, the target audience is generally anyone who wants to increase the popularity of their blog. Personally, I think it’s a good thing because it’s not simply about  attracting more readers, but keeping them, and encouraging them to interact with you, such as by making comments on your posts.Note that the purpose of ‘31 Days…’ is to help you become a better blogger, which is not the same thing as becoming a better writer. It will help you get your blog read more, perhaps, but it won’t do a lot to help you improve the way you express things – but it will almost certainly assist you in generating ideas for topics.There is much to recommend this publication, which comes in electronic format as a PDF. It is filled to the brim with ideas and, crucially, has been written by someone who has successfully implemented the techniques himself.  It is always somewhat disconcerting, not to say unconvincing, to  pick up a book which has been written by a person whose understanding of the subject is entirely theoretical (a theme I touch upon in a discussion of Stephen Potter’s observations for his ‘One Upmanship’ books). What I especially like about the book is the preponderance of lists. My view is, if I want to read ‘literature’ I can pick up a Jane Austen novel; if I want to work on my blog, I need something I can dip into very quickly.The content is presented in manageable chunks, and is well-written with plenty of links. Reasons for the activities are given and explained well. The ideas themselves are interesting. For example, I like the one about grabbing a pencil and notepad and sitting in a shopping mall for a couple of hours watching th[...]

Just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s useless!

8 Jun 2009 07:42:26 +0100 GMT

It’s a bit of a hackneyed expression, but we really do live in the ‘throwaway age’, and in no subject area is this truer than in technology. But just because something is old does not mean it has no value….

At this time of year in England, senior students are sitting external examinations. Once their exams are over, the students will be allowed to leave school, and have a long break before going on to university (or getting a full-time job). And so what do many teachers do in this new-found swathe of free time stretching out before them? Why, clear out their cupboards, of course.

In this video I suggest that’s a good idea to think twice about throwing out magazines and books just because they’re old.

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View more videos and suggest topics of your own for future episodes.

Making ICT more interesting: 5 suggestions

29 May 2009 10:50:09 +0100 GMT

It’s an unfortunate fact that the issues I raised in my book ‘Go on, bore ‘em: how to make ICT lessons excruciatingly dull’ are still relevant today.This has been clearly demonstrated in  our interview with Edith, a 14 year old, recently, and it’s also apparent from emails and other messages I receive. So what can be done about it?1. How about talking to your students? Yes, a novel concept for some people, but when Edith complains that she is being ‘under-taught’ she is not alone. When Miles Berry and I researched for our presentation on the subject of ‘What are your kids learning while you're not looking?’ we found (as if we didn’t already know) that youngsters are a lot more tech-savvy, and do a lot more with technology, than teachers realise. In fact, when we gave the presentation at least two members of the audience were inspired to conduct a survey of their own students to better inform their teaching.2. Think about what you do. This point very much ties in with the preceding one. At the Naace 2009 Conference, Niel McLean mentioned the standard question asked by an advisor called Jeff (or Geoff) Howard:“Did you teach the kids to do that, did you ask them to do it or did you allow them to do it?”The current conventional wisdom is that we don’t teach kids to do anything, we allow them to find things out for themselves or from each other. How do you ensure that what they learn is actually accurate? How do you justify the amount of time wasted in letting kids ‘discover’ stuff that you could teach them in 5 minutes? And what exactly is the point of having a fully qualified and highly-trained teacher in the classroom if they’re not actually teaching?But even if you shy away from such musings on the grounds that they are far too radical for a Friday morning (which is when I’m writing this), surely you would agree that in order to ensure that kids don’t have gaps in their knowledge and understanding, sometimes you actually have to teach them something?3. Get out more. It’s all too easy to start to think that your school is the centre of its own universe, like the one-dimensional creature in Flatland.  In any case, as I explained recently, in the UK one of the aspects of ‘best value’ is using comparisons.4. Embark on a programme of lesson observations within your team. This needs to be done carefully, and will take some planning and possibly a bit of creativity and quid pro quo-ing as far as cover arrangements are concerned, but it can yield very valuable results. For example, as I said to Vicki Davis yesterday, I once observed a lesson in which the teacher spoke for a total of 40 minutes – the lesson was only 50 minutes long! He ha[...]

Who needs educational technology shows?

29 May 2009 09:41:15 +0100 GMT

We take it as axiomatic that we need to attend shows like the Education Show or the BETT show in order to find out what’s new in technology. But are we unduly limiting ourselves? In a sense, that’s what Graham Brown-Martin seemed to imply when he spoke at the Naace 2009 Conference. He said that a visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas will tell you more about what you need to be thinking about technology-wise than a visit to the BETT show. I don’t know if that is literally true, but it does chime with my experience in general: I always read the technology section of my newspaper, even though it seldom features anything directly concerned with education. I watch technology shows on TV for the same reason – although, I have to say, infrequently because I find the style of presentation irritating. I listen to, and watch, technology podcasts which are not categorised as ‘Education’. The problem with attending a consumer electronics show, whether in Las Vegas or not, is convincing colleagues that it’s a legitimate excursion. It’s hard enough getting permission to take a day or two out of school to attend the BETT show, a trip which, bizarrely, some people regard as a junket. Obtaining the go-ahead to attend something which, on the face of it, has nothing to do with your work would test your powers of persuasion to the limit.    Wordle summary: Why have I used Wordle? See Five reasons to use Wordle in education. This is #18 of 25 reflections on the Naace 2009 Conference.[...]

Why can't assessment be like feedback in eBay?

29 May 2009 08:14:51 +0100 GMT

Can eBay teach us anything about assessment? At the Naace 2009 conference, John Davitt made an interesting point. As I recall, he said that when he started selling stuff on eBay he received more feedback on his performance than he’d ever seen in a school.A few things strike me about this observation:1. He is no doubt correct. However…2. Ratings on eBay are a reflection of customers’ perceptions and possibly hidden motives. In any rating system that relies on customer feedback or reviews, you have to hope that the positive ones outnumber the negative ones.3. It strikes me that feedback on eBay is relatively straightforward because it has a pretty limited aim. In a school situation, feedback may be given for a variety of reasons.4. Also, ideally, the feedback will not simply be of the ‘tick-good’ variety, but include specific suggestions for improvement.5. It’s worth noting, I think, that the feedback in eBay is a crucial component: without such a mechanism, a lot fewer people would trust the system. I wonder how many schools can say the same?6. Whatever our misgivings about using eBay as a benchmark for evaluating feedback or assessment mechanisms, we can’t get away from the fact that the technology behind it is pretty clever (even though it may not seem so because it is commonplace now). We ought to be able to extend the use of technology for everyday assessment in schools, not just end-of-course assessments.7. As an interesting aside, Sir Richard Branson thinks that Members of Parliament should be judged on their performance, and any who underperformed  should be booted out. Perhaps eBay’s feedback system could be extended….Wordle summary:Why have I used Wordle? See Five reasons to use Wordle in education.This is #17 in a series of 25 reflections on the Naace 2009 Conference.[...]

Are you only teaching the kids how to drill holes?

28 May 2009 06:36:55 +0100 GMT

Drilling holes? What’s that got to do with ICT? Possibly quite a bit….

(image) You can always rely on Niel McLean of Becta to come up with a fresh insight, and his talk at the Naace 2009 Conference proved to be no exception. I can’t recall the exact details of the story, but Niel related a conversation which took place at a parents’ open day:

Parent: What’s this machine for?

Design & Technology Teacher: It’s for drilling holes.

Parent: So why would you want to use it?

Teacher: To drill holes.

Parent: Yes, but why teach the kids how to use it?

Teacher: So they can drill holes.

People don’t always express themselves very well, and this is a case in point. What the parent was really asking was: Why would anyone want to drill holes?

The issue is, how far do we fall into the same trap?

Q: Why use SlideShare?

A: To create slides.

Q: Why use Audacity?

A: So we can edit a podcast.

Q: Why use a spreadsheet?

A: So we can do calculations.

We need to make sure that we have a rather better set of answers!

This is #16 in a series of 25 reflections on the Naace 2009 Conference.


What if the Home Access initiative were a food relief programme?

27 May 2009 19:19:38 +0100 GMT

In the UK the government is keen to get rid of, or at least reduce, the digital divide. For this reason it introduced a home access programme, the aim of which is to help the poorest families acquire a computer and an internet connection.But what if this were a food relief programme? The specification of the hardware and software has to be approved. Miles Berry has drawn attention to the fact that laptops purchased for the Home Access scheme has to have ‘relevant’ software – but who defines ‘relevant’? (See slide 45 of our presentation entitled ‘What are your kids learning while you're not looking?’). Graham Brown-Martin, speaking at the Naace 2009 Conference, went further. He said that if this were a food relief programme, people would be given food they’re allowed to have rather than food they actually want, because they’re poor.He was being deliberately provocative, but is he right? Who decides what hardware and software is ‘good for you’ or ‘relevant’? There’s a case to be made for providing a range of stuff, including games devices and phones! After all, if people have chosen things they actually want to use, isn’t there more chance they will use it?Perhaps there could be various ‘set menus’ on offer, which acknowledge the value to learning of different hardware-software sets. Perhaps there could be a free choice as long as the potential learning gains justify it? Or perhaps we should be pleased that there is such a thing as the Home Access program in the first place, and not pick holes in it?I’d be interested in your opinion about these issues.Wordle summary:This is reflection #15 of a series of 25 reflections of the Naace 2009 Conference. [...]

Could do better: 4 'malfunctions' in ICT the provision of England and Wales

26 May 2009 11:15:58 +0100 GMT

According to David Anstead of Ofsted, there are 4 systemic problems in the provision of ICT, these being the use of assessment, some qualifications, value for money, and getting ICT to the learning. At the Naace 2009 Conference he discussed each of these. Here are my notes from that session.Note that the session was timed to coincide (more or less) with the publication of Ofsted's report into the state of ICT, which I referred to in an article in Computers in Classrooms.MalfunctionsThe use of assessmentThese slides depict how assessment is used, and how Ofsted thinks it should be used:The ACTUAL use of assessment in ICTIn this model, ICT is taught as a discrete subject, and is then assessed. Pupils’ use of, and achievement in, ICT in other subjects is not taken into account, and tracking does not take place either. As for pupils’ own evaluation of their capabilities, forget it.The IDEAL use of assessment in ICTIn this model, the assessment of ICT is continuously tracked (assessment for learning), and the use of ICT in other subjects is fed into the assessment process too. Bizarrely, there is an arrow leading from 'assessment' to 'self-evaluation', whereas I should have thought that it would logically be the other way round, or even going in both directions.This is all very well, but in practice, in my experience, the assessment of a pupil's achievement in ICT in another subject is problematic, for these reasons:  The teacher has enough to do as far as her own subject is concerned, let alone assessing another subject too.   The teacher often does not have the expertise to assess the use of ICT properly.When I raised the second point as an issue, Anstead agreed with me, and thought the answer lay in training. But that simply begs the question: how do you get colleagues to attend training on how to assess ICT?On the first issue, Anstead suggested that perhaps a quid pro quo of using the technical facilities is that teachers be expected to assess its use. In my experience, a lot of teachers will either not bother to use the facilities, or the 'assessment' will deteriorate into a box-ticking exercise. In any case, I think using the facilities should be a right, not conditional on doing something extra.I do not wish to sound unduly negative, but in my experience it is extremely hard to get other teachers to assess ICT at all, or properly. A far better solution, in my opinion, is to recruit enough ICT staff to enable them to visit other lessons and/or look at pupils' work in order to arrive at their own conclusions.I'd be interested in your [...]

How do we make most schools e-enabled?

25 May 2009 18:05:26 +0100 GMT

Assuming that we think e-enablement is a worthy goal (definitions vary, but one of the most popular is that a school is said to be e-enabled if it could not function without its technology; I’m not sure that’s a good position to be in, but I get the point), how do we achieve it?Or, to be somewhat more accurate, how do we achieve it faster? In the UK we’ve had a massive investment in technology in schools over the past decade, but many schools are still not e-enabled. (Figures vary, but the percentage of schools said to be e-enabled seems to be somewhere between 11 and 20%.)Perhaps this is an illustration of seeing a half-full glass as half-empty. I certainly don’t wish to come across as a pessimist – I think there have been huge achievements. Nevertheless, I think it would be an incredible feat of self-imposed blindness to not wonder how come we haven’t achieved even more. At the Naace 2009 Conference, Niel McLean of Becta had a few suggestions.ChallengesThe challenges facing schools as far as the ICT Strategy (Harnessing Technology) is concerned are many (see illustration). McLean’s suggestions included the following:1. Move from supply-side push to demand-side pull. I doubt that anyone would disagree with this. You actually need both forces to be able to make headway, and it’s interesting to see how the emphasis has changed over the decades. My recollection of the the mid-80s to mid-90s is that the emphasis was on the demand side. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Becta were  continually publishing glossy booklets extolling the value of ICT for geography, history and so on, as well as collating (favourable) research from all over the world concerning the benefits of technology in education. I was even on a couple of national committees at the time, discussing ways and means of getting more teachers, and therefore schools, on board.Then it all seemed to change and be about funding and targets, driven from central government working through local  government. That was a welcome phase too, which has eased up somewhat.The big question though is: how do you increase the demand? The government’s approach now is to try to do so via parents, hence the Next Generation Learning initiative, part of which concentrates on encouraging parents to find out if their child’s school has been awarded the ICT Mark. This leaning towards the home as a key influencing force is not without foundation, being either based on, or justified by, research by Charles Desforge into the impact of parental inv[...]