Educate 1 to 1 http://www.educate1to1.org Education Technology 1:1 schemes Sun, 10 Jan 2016 20:23:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.8 Tesserae: The art of seeing the whole picture http://www.educate1to1.org/tesserae-the-art-of-seeing-the-whole-picture/ http://www.educate1to1.org/tesserae-the-art-of-seeing-the-whole-picture/#comments Sun, 10 Jan 2016 14:51:05 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3315
Even though my professional interests lie in gaining a better understanding of pedagogy and how this impacts on successful teaching and learning, my current position has put me in charge of my school’s digital strategy. As such, the main thrust of my role in the past two and a half years has been the visioning, […]

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Even though my professional interests lie in gaining a better understanding of pedagogy and how this impacts on successful teaching and learning, my current position has put me in charge of my school’s digital strategy.

As such, the main thrust of my role in the past two and a half years has been the visioning, planning and deployment of a tablet 1-to-1 strategy (meaning all teachers and students are supplied with a tablet — iPad Air 32 GB in our case), guided by the school’s values and what I am continuous learning about what makes great teaching and learning.

One of the things my school excels at is the communicating of this vision to teachers, students, parents and the wider school community. Social media is an important tool for this. So, every now and then I reinforce this vision by tweeting or posting blogs, like this one, about how technology is actually being used — as opposed to how folk assume technology is being used.

Most of the time these tweets and blogs go uncontested, but often enough someone takes issue and questions the value of the whole tablet initiative.

Does the fact that tablets save on printing costs justify the expense?

If children can access content more easily both at school and at home more easily, does that really justify the cost?

Mobile devices may well facilitate and encourage transactional exchanges of student work and teacher feedback, but can’t you do the same on paper?

Teacher instruction can be made more effective when it is supported by tablets, but can’t they use a cheaper visualiser instead?

Children may well have access to state-of-the-art self-organisation tools, but where is the evidence they impact positively on learning?

etc

I understand that, when devoid of context, it is reasonable to suggest that, saving on printing; having easy, ubiquitous access to teacher-curated content; or being able to better communicate and transact work, for example, are not, on their own, good enough reasons to justify the adoption of mobile devices by schools.

But context matters. It’s only when you add up all these seemingly individual, inconsequential tesserae that the bigger picture emerges.

And yes, it’s worth it.

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Top 5 posts of the year on Educate1to1.org http://www.educate1to1.org/top-5-posts-of-the-year-on-educate1to1-org/ http://www.educate1to1.org/top-5-posts-of-the-year-on-educate1to1-org/#comments Thu, 31 Dec 2015 08:39:52 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3306
It’s been quite a year for educational technology. We started off thinking that it might have a useful role to play in a modern education and this curious notion even pervaded an OECD report in September, although you did need to read past the first paragraph to uncover this secret. Thankfully, some well-timed reductive journalism (both […]

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It’s been quite a year for educational technology. We started off thinking that it might have a useful role to play in a modern education and this curious notion even pervaded an OECD report in September, although you did need to read past the first paragraph to uncover this secret. Thankfully, some well-timed reductive journalism (both professional and citizen) in the Autumn term helped the sector find its equilibrium again, with educational technology firmly back in the box marked ‘Not worth the effort’. 2015 ends feeling quite a bit like 2010…

The overall tone of the writing on this site, as you’ll see below, is that technology can be well used in education, but this is only ever true when underpinned by solid thinking about teaching and learning. Tens of thousands of people have read an article on this site in the last twelve months (this is a hard fact). Some may even have liked and/or agreed with what they read (this is an unevidenced assertion).

Here are the 5 top Educate1to1.org posts of 2015, in descending order:

 

5. From sceptic to convert using iPads in my classroom by Daniel Edwards

A powerful story of an edtech awakening, told by a colleague of Dan’s. Susan describes how her teaching and her pupils’ learning has been enriched by access to reliable, easy to use technology. It is interesting because it describes a transformation which is not Damascene but rather one of accretion – the slow build up of an understanding about how technology is an opportunity and not a threat.

“So, could I teach without the iPad now? Well, the answer to that is ‘Of course!’ But why would I want to? Surely the aim of a teacher is to provide learning experiences that best help the pupils to engage with, understand, process, apply and remember knowledge and skills. With such a powerful tool readily available in my classroom to do just this, it would be absurd not to make the most of its potential.”

 

4. Why do teachers struggle with technological change? by Dominic Norrish

Never let a provocative title get in the way of a somewhat useful piece on Change Management. Here Dominic proposes slowing things down, quite a bit, as successful technology projects in education cannot move faster than the skills, attitudes and practices of the people involved. If you are planning a large scale project in the near future, this is worth re-reading.

“Wrapped up in this measured mindset is a skeptical, investigative approach that doesn’t assume that this is going to work or that it is necessarily the right thing for the school and its pupils. I like this a lot. It forces the pace from “Headlong rush to implementation because <insert flimsy reasoning here>” to “Let’s work out how to do this well, if it’s worth doing at all”. My view is that it is worth doing, but only if done extraordinarily well, and that requires the patience, precision and persistence of which undue haste robs us .”

 

3. Note-taking and the iPad by Jose Picardo

A beautifully illustrated post from Jose about the impact he is seeing at his school on a very traditional practice at the heart of learning in KS4-5: note taking. His astonishing hypothesis is that (ensure you’re sitting down, dear reader), instead of doing something totally new, scary and unrelated to the tasks we know are central to education, technology can enhance and improve tricky or laborious things and help pupils become more effective learners.

“At its best it turbo-charges note taking and annotation with its ability to record facts in a variety of media, which are then backed-up and synced across multiple devices, ensuring that your notes are always with you. Always. Even if you lose them. Which you can’t.”

 

2. Pedagogy Before Technology? by Daniel Edwards

Ever the iconoclast, Daniel suggests in this popular post that the only reason we should ever consider using technology in our teaching is when we’ve thought about why – what does it add or improve? He makes a strong argument against using technology without a clear link to the pedagogical approaches being taken, as well as discussing some of the opportunities it presents.

“Reducing the time taken for the ‘Feedback Loop’ is something teachers consider to enhance learning. It is not using the technology for its own sake but rather using it to achieve something they have always wanted to do, make feedback as effective as possible. The barrier is understanding how to use the technology to facilitate this feedback. It shouldn’t be knowing that the sooner a student receives feedback the more effective it is.”

 

1. What impact? 5 ways to put research into practice in the 1-to-1 classroom by Jose Picardo

The most-viewed post on Educate1to1.org in 2015 was written by that Colossus who bestrides the worlds of education and technology, Pearson Teaching Award winner and the thinking man’s Enrique Iglesias, Jose Picardo.

Jose examines the evidence for what works in the classroom and applies a technology lens to it, asking that if we know (for example) that quality of instruction has a well understood impact on learning, can technology maximise this? It’s the best example I’ve read of the explicit linking of research evidence with the affordances of digital tools.

“Unsurprisingly, it turns out that skilled and effective teaching is key to engender an environment in which learning and achievement can be maximised. In addition to more traditional classroom management techniques, mobile devices open up a whole new toolkit to help teachers engender such an environment. Although there are superb apps, such as Class Dojo, that are specifically designed to foster positive classroom behaviours, mobile devices can be used to manage your classroom in more subtle ways.”

 

It is striking that none of the most popular posts of 2015 are about technology in and of itself – they’re about why schools should consider empowering teachers and pupils with a personal device, and how to do it well.

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2 Weeks With The iPad Pro http://www.educate1to1.org/2-weeks-with-the-ipad-pro/ http://www.educate1to1.org/2-weeks-with-the-ipad-pro/#comments Sat, 05 Dec 2015 07:41:13 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3277
Daft as it sounds, the first thing I thought when I opened the box was that I couldn’t believe how big the screen was; it’s a significantly bigger piece of kit and it also feels heavier, but strangely more fragile (though this could have been partly down to an enhanced fear of dropping it before […]

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Daft as it sounds, the first thing I thought when I opened the box was that I couldn’t believe how big the screen was; it’s a significantly bigger piece of kit and it also feels heavier, but strangely more fragile (though this could have been partly down to an enhanced fear of dropping it before I could get it into a protective case).

Initial surprise over, I got to tinkering and I suppose the first thing to realise is that it is still an iPad and this is ultimately a good thing, after all, we wouldn’t have chosen the iPad Air as the device of choice for our students if it wasn’t what we wanted!

When you’re multi-tasking it becomes quite clear what the benefits of the device are. With split screen mode in action, you essentially have two iPads running side by side and that missing piece of the puzzle is finally found. Obviously iPad Air 2 users have had this functionality since iOS 9 was released, but I wonder if the size of the screen on the ‘normal’ iPad might be a strain in the long run?

 

The Keyboard

I have become a pretty fast typer on a regular sized iPad, but the bigger on screen keyboard is a bit more tricky. The spacing and size actually was quite challenging given the conditions under which I tend to use the device. As such, the keyboard that can be purchased for the iPad Pro feels like a must, and once this is in place, you’ve got a really powerful machine, not quite in your hands, but certainly on the desk in front of you! The way the keyboard works means that you can very quickly switch between tablet and pseudo-laptop without any fuss. Having the keyboard in play means that you are able to take advantage of the screen size (which is bigger than that of my Macbook Air!).
The Pencil

The Pencil is a very expensive stylus, but, it is also really quite good at what it does. It has a great weight, making it feel like a real pen rather than the usual imposter-feel of a cheaper stylus. For me, my feedback on Showbie is looking a lot better and I feel like using Notability as a more mainstream part of my own toolkit is viable for someone who is left-handed and has pretty rubbish handwriting anyway!

 

Overall

I think that the iPad Pro is a seriously interesting device, and whilst it is an iPad, if it is adopted in classrooms it might be used in quite different ways to how our students use it now. It is not as mobile as the iPad Air and so the dexterity that it offers could be lost. For students at the lower end of the school, the device is almost as big as their torso so it doesn’t seem a practical device for them. For a sixth form student however, the multi-tasking flexibility of the device and the laptop size, combined with it being a tablet, means it might just be the ultimate tool for older learners.

And staff? If a school was looking to dispense of PCs and replace them with something else, then this could work. It has the benefit of not being a laptop and thus if you’re running an iPad scheme, your staff are using the same technology as your students and thus be more used to what they can do. But, as it is not a laptop, it couldn’t run software like iBooks Author and obviously anything else that is not app-friendly, so it is not a device that can replace absolutely everything.

It’s expensive, so certainly this is not going to be a decision taken lightly. It is however an important evolution in the tablet repertoire and provide a way of differentiating the needs and uses that are apparent in a school. So a couple of weeks in I’m impressed by the image and sound quality and genuinely workable multitasking option, but I do miss the extreme portability and discretion of the iPad Air.

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Learning with mobile devices http://www.educate1to1.org/learning-with-mobile-devices/ http://www.educate1to1.org/learning-with-mobile-devices/#comments Fri, 04 Dec 2015 18:48:51 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3288
In the latest edition of Schools Week, published today, I noticed with great interest a piece titled “Have tablets, will learn independently”. But my initial excitement about finally reading a rigorous and insightful piece on tablets in schools quickly gave away to the more customary disappointment. The usual suspects were all there: the anecdotal connection to “progressive” teaching, the […]

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In the latest edition of Schools Week, published today, I noticed with great interest a piece titled “Have tablets, will learn independently”.

But my initial excitement about finally reading a rigorous and insightful piece on tablets in schools quickly gave away to the more customary disappointment.

The usual suspects were all there: the anecdotal connection to “progressive” teaching, the unsubstantiated link to a perceived loss of rigour, the standard fear-mongering caused by most tenuous links to a variety of medical conditions, the non-expert opining vociferously and, lest we forget, the traditional headmaster with rose-tinted spectacles harking back to a time when children were allowed to climb trees unencumbered by their mobile devices.

As ever, nobody asked about the learning. Arguably the most important consideration.

I thought of writing in to Schools Week, but instead I did this. On my tablet, of course.

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The problem with data in schools http://www.educate1to1.org/the-problem-with-data-in-schools/ http://www.educate1to1.org/the-problem-with-data-in-schools/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:13:29 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3266
I’ve been reading this Schools Week’s piece on whether Management Information Systems are a good or bad thing and it annoyed me because it was such a missed opportunity. It doesn’t reach its stated destination, just meanders around the topic’s back streets and runs over some random pedestrians en route. (Note to self: I should probably […]

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I’ve been reading this Schools Week’s piece on whether Management Information Systems are a good or bad thing and it annoyed me because it was such a missed opportunity. It doesn’t reach its stated destination, just meanders around the topic’s back streets and runs over some random pedestrians en route. (Note to self: I should probably see someone about my specialist-press anger management and metaphor dependency issues).

The article makes what I think is a highly questionable link between schools’ and teachers’ desire to use data and admin tools to help them to be more effective and efficient and the very real issue of workload. It quotes one teacher who feels that the demand of data entry means he doesn’t plan lessons, which is a very odd thing to say. Initial pupil-level data entry by teachers was one of the things the National Workforce Agreement of the early-2000s agreed. That’s why schools don’t expect teaching staff to do anything beyond this. What this teacher is referring to are actually his statutory duties which, if they weren’t entered into a database, would still need to be recorded on paper (probably multiple times as a result).

Is this really the high quality journalism we’ve come to expect from Schools Week? I mean, from the TES, sure, but this is Schools Week

To be clear, I come to bury MISs, not to praise them:

I’ve not found a school yet, and I’ve been to more of them than most commentators, who are delighted with their MIS. They’ve mostly reached the kind of psychological position inhabited by the badly-matched long-term married: fear, suspicion, bouts of loathing, but a broad acceptance that they’re better off together. Think the final scenes of Gone Girl.

And yet, they’re all using their MIS for the very simple reasons that it makes things easier and better. Registering pupils, contacting parents, compiling reports, accessing admin data like timetables, feeding into multiple other systems, all of this is now quantifiably saving time and allowing schools to do things which were previously impossible. Most critically, the MIS is the starting point (if not the end tool) for understanding pupils’ progress and the impact of teaching. Well used, the insights that learner data can furnish will help teachers, middle and senior leaders redirect their and pupils’ effort and support improved outcomes in a way paper-based systems never could.

So, let’s not pretend that the problem is the existence of MISs, the problem is their design and their seeming inability to move with the times. Despite the market being actually quite diverse now, with some very innovative new companies offering products in the space, the Schools Week piece only really references one of them (Arbor) and spends the rest of its time (80+%?) on SIMS.

The reason there’s an 80+% market leader is, I believe, almost entirely the result of early market dominance and subsequent inertia. Changing MIS is similar to changing bank account or moving house – traumatic, expensive, disruptive and to be avoided if at all possible. I can’t think of a technology change project in schools which affects as many users so fundamentally and as concurrently. “Welcome back to an exciting start of term – we’ve got a new MIS and everything you know is wrong.”

SIMS is very powerful, it’s just not very intuitive to use and if there’s one thing we know about technology and teachers, it’s that it’s got to be intuitive to work at a system level. We know this is a problem because of what schools opt to do about it – many have paid a lot of extra money to buy what are effectively nothing more than acceptable interfaces to their MIS. Good examples of this are Mint Class, Classroom Monitor, GroupCall Emerge, et al. These products allow ‘normal’ users to do very powerful things with the data fed from their MIS. They’re great, but they should not be needed. It is worth noting that workload reduction features strongly in their sales content.

The article references the increasing normalisation of the collection of ‘microdata’ via MIS apps (photos of work, behaviour points, etc) and posits that this contributes to workload. I suggest the author spends some time in an EYFS environment to experience how precisely the opposite is being achieved. As a teacher I spent countless hours laboriously detailing student data in things we knew then as a ‘markbook’ and a ‘register’. I would attempt some analyses of these data by checking rows for missing or late marks but they never told me anything I did not instinctively already know.

The (largely undelivered) promise of educational data systems is the power they would give the profession to be better teachers, and to help pupils become better learners – and we should collectively be pursuing that objective with fervour, not suspicion.

I’d like to see some serious journalistic effort applied to the real problem – the paucity of the tools, not a simplistic zeitgeist-friendly sideshow.

As for what a modern and fit-for-purpose education MI system should be capable of, I wrote about this a while back. We’re still a very long way from there.

 

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Beyond banning — what are schools to do about social media? http://www.educate1to1.org/beyond-banning-what-are-schools-to-do-about-social-media/ http://www.educate1to1.org/beyond-banning-what-are-schools-to-do-about-social-media/#comments Sat, 14 Nov 2015 08:05:41 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3242
Students entering secondary education in the last five years would not have known life before social media. The use of the internet has become an integral part of our lives and, as a result, we are communicating with each other on an unprecedented scale. This presents both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, research […]

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Students entering secondary education in the last five years would not have known life before social media. The use of the internet has become an integral part of our lives and, as a result, we are communicating with each other on an unprecedented scale.

This presents both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, research suggests that the use social media has many benefits: people who are social online tend to be very social offline as well; social media allow us to establish links and connections with like-minded people with whom it would have been otherwise impossible to do so; social media have become an important source of knowledge and information; social media allow us to keep in frequent touch and thus strengthen relationships with friends and family members regardless of distance. Furthermore, research shows that the use of social media is not a substitute for more traditional forms of relationship but rather an extension of them.

However, on the other hand, studies have also shown a link between the misuse of social media and increased levels of anxiety and even depression among young people. Clearly, schools and parents cannot afford to ignore this. So what are we to do?

Is banning the only option?

Most schools go down the path of banning the use of social media during school hours. This has many obvious benefits, not least because it allows pupils to concentrate on their studies free of social media distractions during lessons. Having said that, where many schools — and parents for that matter — go wrong is when they disengage from social media altogether, failing to grasp the important role that social media play beyond school , not only in the private lives of young people, but also in the wider school community and society in general.

One reason why schools and parents may prefer disengaging could be because the prevalent discourse surrounding our use of technology in popular media is littered with threats, warning, fears and concerns, many of which — though not all — are unwarranted and depict an almost certainly dystopian vision of how technology is and will be affecting our lives.

Have we been here before?

Even before Socrates worried that writing — still a new technology in 400 BC — would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves”, generations of parents had disapproved of the way young people behave, speak and write. And they still continue to dislike intensely the tools young people use to do so, from comic books to Walkmans, from TV to video-games, from texting to online social networks. Indeed, texting was once the sworn enemy of proper English and literacy. But at a time when we are reading and writing more than ever on all kinds of devices (Ofcom has confirmed that text has overtaken voice in the UK in mobile telephony) the suggestion that reading and writing more will somehow have a negative effect on literacy seems ludicrous.

According to renowned cognitive psychologist Stephen Pinker, “it is a failing of human nature to detest anything that young people do just because older people are not used to it or have trouble learning it.” And so, one of the most worrying aspects of this cultural bias is adults’ propensity to vilify young people and view them as different from us . As if we adults did not feel the need to socialise when we were young, or as if we didn’t bully or were subject to bullying. It may be comforting, though highly inaccurate, to hark back to a time before social media when teenagers didn’t feel anxious about their relationships. As Danah Boyd, principal researcher at Microsoft, puts it “children are not addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other”.

Others go further and even argue that technology is changing young people’s brains. However, according to leading neuropsychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons the brain’s wiring “is determined by genetic programs and biochemical interactions that do most of their work long before a child discovers Facebook and Twitter.” Yet the concept that the technology is indeed changing brains — in a bad way — continues to be propounded on traditional media channels, as well as, ironically, on social media. But, as Chabris and Simons conclude “there is simply no experimental evidence to show that living with new technologies fundamentally changes brain organisation”.

Practical considerations

So it turns out that, as ever, the picture is more complex than sensationalist headlines would have us believe. If the use of social media and life in this 21st century are inextricably linked, how do we best serve the interests of children entering secondary education?

Surely, part of the answer is to not assume that social media is someone else’s problem . Parents of children about to start secondary education ought to take an active interest in what being social in 2015 means and ask their prospective schools these questions:

  • Does the school provide children with good role models of appropriate behaviour on social media?
  • Does the school have a well maintained social media presence? E.g. does the Head tweet or blog?
  • Does the school encourage the use of social media for academic purposes? E.g. is there a Maths department twitter feed? Is there a Geography blog?
  • Does the school have a social media policy that sets out, not only how it deals with misuse or abuse, but also how it encourages the appropriate use of social media?
  • Does the school behaviour policy include expectations of appropriate behaviour online as well as offline?

Not less importantly, parents ought to ask themselves these questions:

  • Am I a good social media role model? E.g. are my Facebook posts or tweets appropriate?
  • Do I check social media at the dinner table? Should I be doing that?
  • Do I supervise my children’s access to mobile devices or allow them free rein?
  • Do I take an interest in my child’s social life online?
  • Have I helped my child set up their social accounts or otherwise offered advice?
  • Have I ever explained to my children what is appropriate or inappropriate when, for example, leaving a comment on a YouTube video?

From this perspective, education, balance and clear boundaries emerge as the key factors in ensuring that children are able to use social media in a relatively safe, supportive and productive environment . For this to happen both parents and schools need to gain a better understanding about the important role the internet and social media have come to play in our lives and that this bright, colourful and engaging new way of communicating and transmitting information is here to stay.

And let’s not forget that, despite the many dystopian predictions, people have always managed to integrate technology in their lives with overwhelmingly positive results. Sure, there will be challenges as well as opportunities. This is why children need our guidance. Whatever the case, and however schools decide to tackle this, wishing social media went away is probably not the answer.

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The potential of online learning http://www.educate1to1.org/the-potential-of-online-learning/ http://www.educate1to1.org/the-potential-of-online-learning/#comments Sat, 24 Oct 2015 06:33:56 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3229
A guest post from Saj Devshi   I’ve wondered for a long time why online learning has never really picked as an alternative to teaching GCSEs, A level or University lectures as I have always thought it had the potential to be mainstream. Just to clarify I’m not talking about ‘distance learning’ which I see as […]

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A guest post from Saj Devshi

 

I’ve wondered for a long time why online learning has never really picked as an alternative to teaching GCSEs, A level or University lectures as I have always thought it had the potential to be mainstream. Just to clarify I’m not talking about ‘distance learning’ which I see as distinctively different but online learning where students can either simply tune into a broadcasting classroom lesson or catch recorded lessons for that particular course from home rather than having to make the journey.

Forbes reported that the online learning market is set to be worth over $107 billion this year (2015) and it’s likely to continue to grow even more in the coming years. Currently one of the biggest learning providers is Lynda.com and it makes well over £100 million per year in revenue and it doesn’t even cater for educational courses as its primary focus. Educational institutions have never really taken online learning seriously but the fact that Lynda can be so successful despite the existence of free alternatives suggests there is a big market in the online learning space. For niche specific educational courses which target our current UK curricula and exam boards, it would be a no-brainer if someone could execute it in a way that makes it more user friendly. I think this in a nutshell is probably the biggest problem – the execution of it.

One of the major draws of learning from home is the flexibility it offers. Until recently I was a mature student myself that ended up learning at a local charity offering tuition in Leicester.  The biggest issue I faced was trying to meet my responsibilities while also trying to find a college that could provide classes around a working person’s timetable. This is probably one of the biggest barriers mature students face. With online learning it provides the chance for more flexibility not just for adults but also youngsters who no doubt struggle to get up in the mornings too.

One of the other benefits I can see it offer is the ability to revisit old recorded lectures which in some cases may be better than being there in person. When I sat in class, unless my note taking was spot-on I tended to miss things however recording the lectures solves this problem. Students can revisit old lectures without having to frantically write everything or rely on other people’s notes and go over them until they grasp the concepts themselves.

When I was at school the internet was in its infancy and trying to provide video streams to people on capped internet plans and slow connections was never going to happen as the infrastructure simply wasn’t there. In 10 years, this has changed massively with the introduction of fibre optic cables and as big bandwidth hogs such as Netflix and Lovefilm show, the internet is no longer the tortoise it use to be. So the hardware and infrastructure has caught up but the biggest issue seems to now lie in the software and someone coming along to deliver it in a more elegant way. A good way of thinking about this is Facebook and all the previous iterations that came before it. You had Myspace and websites such as Hi5 which existed only less than 10 years ago as market leaders. They were good social networking websites. Unfortunately the thing that stopped them breaking out like Facebook was they were not great social networking websites. Facebook took everything that made them good and improved on them in every way providing a much more user-friendly experience to stay connected with each other. This I think is the biggest issue; there is nothing out there dynamic enough to provide online learning in a way that is user friendly but also flexible enough to stay on top of the changes that happen with the UK exam boards.

Having worked with students and adult learners teaching psychology on two popular revision websites Loopa and Gcsepsychology.com, we frequently post video content on our respective courses and they have been viewed over 150k  times in the last year. This shows me there is a market for people who want to learn from home and gain assistance. The rise of YouTube and smart-phones and tablets makes it even easier for people to learn literally anywhere. Most students refer to revision websites as their main form of aid however most of the popular ones are not optimised for mobile or tablet viewing making them very unfriendly resolution wise.

Websites such as Khan academy are great for teaching general concepts for subjects such as mathematics as they teach you tools for working something out – where they fall down is the fact that they have nothing specific for the exam boards themselves where content and topic focus can change. Such topics (particularly social sciences) tend to change their areas of focus which would require frequent updating of resources to stay in line with specification changes. If online learning was to ever take off in any form this would be something that needs to be considered – content that is constantly updated and kept fresh to keep up to date with the specification changes as they occur. I say this as the UK is currently going through a major overhaul of its education system with A levels becoming linear again (as opposed to modular).

There is scope I think to bring education to people’s homes without costly distance learning providers and this could be another way the under-funded education sector could try and open up a new revenue stream. Combined with the opportunity for students to actually come in to the institution face to face should they have issues I think this is probably a major trick institutions are missing.

learning-online

 

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Saj Devshi teaches CBT at probation and A level and GCSE psychology to students in his spare time. He is also the author of popular revision resources used across the UK for schools and colleges. He writes for Tech.co, Huffington post and various other blogs on education. You can catch him on twitter @Sajdevshi

Saj Devshi Bio Pic

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Is technology invisible? http://www.educate1to1.org/is-technology-invisible/ http://www.educate1to1.org/is-technology-invisible/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 10:13:24 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3220
Interview with Jose Picardo from Learn 4 Life on Vimeo. I was fortunate to be able to attend the recent Research Ed Tech conference at the London Connected Learning Centre, where I presented a session titled Invisible Technology: Let the technology blend into the background and focus on the teaching. Here’s a short interview recorded […]

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Interview with Jose Picardo from Learn 4 Life on Vimeo.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the recent Research Ed Tech conference at the London Connected Learning Centre, where I presented a session titled Invisible Technology: Let the technology blend into the background and focus on the teaching.

Here’s a short interview recorded immediately after my session. With many thanks to Leon Cych for his indefatigable recording, documenting, curating and archiving of all things educational. The man deserves a knighthood!

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Adapting and learning to love technology in the classroom http://www.educate1to1.org/adapting-and-learning-to-love-technology-in-the-classroom/ http://www.educate1to1.org/adapting-and-learning-to-love-technology-in-the-classroom/#comments Sat, 17 Oct 2015 07:00:15 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3203
(A guest post by Claire Nellany, history teacher at the Stephen Perse Foundation) I have recently started working at the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, a school which so far I have found to be an extremely inspiring place to work, with wonderful students and staff alike. It is different in many ways to my previous school (independent, […]

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(A guest post by Claire Nellany, history teacher at the Stephen Perse Foundation)

I have recently started working at the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, a school which so far I have found to be an extremely inspiring place to work, with wonderful students and staff alike. It is different in many ways to my previous school (independent, currently single sex in the senior school but moving to a ‘diamond’ formation). Despite slight mixed feelings about moving from a comprehensive to independent school (do I feel guilty? Yes. Is it the best thing for me and my development right now? Yes. Will I go back to the state sector? Quite probably), I am really enjoying it and am learning *lots* every day. I wanted to restart my much neglected blogging today by reflecting on one of the big learning curves I’ve faced over the last few weeks: adapting to a school where use of technology and digital learning  features centrally to teaching and learning, school organisation and communication, and even, rather excitingly, to their outreach strategy and wider plans going forward. In summary, I love it. It makes my working life easier, it seems to be improving my teaching and my students are able to connect in ways I hadn’t previously considered. This post considers how I have adapted in these first few weeks, observations about my use of technology and my plans and questions going forward. As ever, thoughts, comments and advice are eagerly welcomed.

As a teacher very early on in my career, it goes without saying that my main priorities and development needs are rooted very much in becoming a good teacher – improving my subject knowledge, reading lots, trying out new approaches to improve how my students are learning and, importantly, reflecting, reflecting, reflecting. I have so many different areas to develop, and this post considers just one of those. If you’d told me this time last year, or even six months ago, that I would be spending any amount of time thinking about technology and ‘digital learning’ I’d have never believed it. With so much on my mind, I really saw technology as something I would think about in a few years time, when I felt competent at…er, teaching.

But I have to admit my mindset about technology and its place in the classroom and in my development as a teacher has changed quite dramatically in the last month. I used to see it as something almost separate to becoming a good teacher, some ‘add on’ that may aid some aspects of teaching and learning, but was not something I yet needed to concern myself with. When training, if I am truly honest, I used to flick over the chapters in my ‘learning to teach’ books that mentioned technology, I ignored all #edtech chats on Twitter, and I don’t think I ever used anything more than a PC or an IWB in any of my lessons. I am far from a tech phobic, and regularly use gadgets and interactive apps in my social life, but I really hadn’t put much thought into technology’s place in the classroom.

That mindset was probably never going to work at the Stephen Perse Foundation (see Principal Tricia Kelleher @StephenPerse or Director of Digital Strategy, Dan Edwards – @syded06 – Twitter feeds to see why). What I have found particularly reassuring and inspiring about the attitude towards ‘edtech’ at SPF, however, is that technology is viewed as just another ‘tool in the toolkit’ and it is only considered important when, and if, it improves something about the school, most centrally, of course, if it improves the learning experiences of the students. All students and teachers use IPads regularly but, of course, there are many, many times when pen and paper do the job better, and so pen and paper is then what’s used.

Seeing technology as a possible tool in my gradually building toolkit has made it seem both less scary as a new teacher, and also more important. It is, surely, my central aim to learn to use whatever tool will best improve the learning of my students. Very often, these tools will be the more ‘traditional’ approaches to teaching – questioning, well planned lessons and effective assessment and feedback – but I realise now that, sometimes, the best tool may involve technology.

So what have I learnt and observed so far?

– The importance of technology being a central part of whole school strategy, not just a new fad in which neither staff nor students are truly invested. I have seen, previously, a case of students and staff being given IPads without an overall strategy about how they would be used, and while I am sure that they were used effectively by some staff and students, the impact of such a tool was, overall, minimal. You can’t just have the technology, you need to embed it within your strategy for teaching and learning.

– In order to do that, good quality training is vital. I am a fairly quick learner when it comes to technology, but I would not have had a clue how to use my new iPad effectively as an educational tool if we hadn’t received several sessions as part of our start of year INSET. What was particularly good about this was that some of the sessions were led by other classroom teachers who had found a particular app to be effective, and so were able to deliver the training on a level that their colleagues could both understand and, importantly, see why we would want to use such an app in the first place. Where training was less effective was when staff were left, literally, asking ‘Why would I want to use this?’.

– An individual teacher’s way of teaching and their mindset about technology are important. Being the age I am and beginning my teaching career in a time in which technology is increasingly being used in the classroom, I guess my mindset about technology’s role in education is fairly malleable and if I go to a school where it is considered important, I am inevitably going to see it as important. Clearly, this is not the case, nor should it be, for everyone. I really don’t think the use of technology should be forced top-down into the classroom, as the experience for everyone, staff and student, will inevitably suffer. I wonder, then, what the best approach is to ensure technology is used successfully in a school without overriding the views, experiences and competencies of its teachers?

How have I actually used technology so far?

Primarily, so far, my use has been centred on organisation, communication and sharing of resources. We use Google Drive as our main internal file storage, allowing very easy sharing and co-editing. I still occasionally encounter problems with this, and it’s very easy to accidentally move (or remove!) files that others might depend on, although this risk is obviously reduced with training.

Linked to Google Drive, is Google Classroom, which I am finding very useful for sharing lesson resources and homework with my classes, and making announcements/linking them to interesting resources and articles as and when I find them. I am definitely still finding my feet with this one, and will likely blog in the future about it, when I can start using it more as a collaboration tool rather than just as a sharing and organisation one.

In terms of my own teacher organisation, I have been using iDoceo as my mark book, attendance record and homework organiser. Again, it’s early days, so I may post more about this when I start using some of its more interesting features.

In the classroom, having every student with their own iPad has allowed for greater flexibility of activities, and easier (and I *think* more effective) differentiation (more on this in the future).

This week, I plan to use the iPads to aid my 6th Form students understanding of how to integrate ‘critical analysis’ into an essay, by easily displaying some of their work on the screen for the rest of the class to deconstruct, discuss and improve as a group (Yes, I realise this could just be done with a camera, but past attempts have shown me that it involves too much faff).

In a few weeks time, we also intend to use FaceTime to allow a student who will be off for several weeks to be able to be ‘present’ in her A Level lessons.

What problems or limitations have I encountered so far?

– Mindset of the older students – my KS3 students are far more used to the apps and gadgets than the 6th Formers who I have found to be more reluctant to using them, and sometimes even forget their iPads (but as this is a school expectation, can be treated in the same way as forgetting their file or other needed equipment)

– WiFi failures! Admittedly a lot fewer than expected, but when this happens, it can be frustrating, and definitely has highlighted to me the need for flexibility.

– My own knowledge of what is possible, how to use particular apps….

Questions I have….

1) How can I best use technology to allow greater collaboration between students, classes, other subjects, other schools…? Any advice on this, especially from a History teacher’s perspective, would be greatly appreciated.

2) Is my excitement about the possibilities of technology going to distract me from improving other areas of my teaching? I really hope not, and in fact technology does not feature centrally on my actual action and development plan for this year, but I guess I can see it as a potential risk at times.

I hope you can tell that I am excited by what technology might have to offer my teachinng, but also cautious of the ‘side effects’. I plan to do a series of posts as I get more comfortable using technology effectively. I might even conclude that it is not as important as I currently think, who knows?  Please do feel free to share your thoughts/offer me advice, all is appreciated.

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Why the behaviour argument against mobile devices is flawed http://www.educate1to1.org/why-the-behaviour-argument-against-mobile-devices-is-flawed/ http://www.educate1to1.org/why-the-behaviour-argument-against-mobile-devices-is-flawed/#comments Sat, 10 Oct 2015 07:00:45 +0000 http://www.educate1to1.org/?p=3188
This is a section of a featured article published in the TES on 25 September 2015.  To read the full version, a subscription to the TES is required. Research published by the London School of Economics suggests that students at schools with a mobile phone ban achieve higher grades than pupils at schools without a ban. The study claims that “mobile phones can […]

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This is a section of a featured article published in the TES on 25 September 2015.  To read the full version, a subscription to the TES is required.

Research published by the London School of Economics suggests that students at schools with a mobile phone ban achieve higher grades than pupils at schools without a ban. The study claims that “mobile phones can be a source of great disruption in classrooms, as they provide individuals with access to texting, games, social media and the internet”.

The idea of prohibiting mobile devices in school may appear attractive, and a ban could be the right call in some circumstances. But suggesting that “all headteachers worth their salt” should ban mobile devices – as Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of England’s schools inspectorate Ofsted, did recently – does not really address the challenges and opportunities that the devices present to schools. Forcing students to enter an alternative reality every morning where the mobile internet doesn’t exist is probably not the answer.

Few advocates of mobile devices would suggest allowing children free rein to text each other, play games, interact on social media or roam the internet gathering data on the true size of Kim Kardashian’s, er, ego.

Yet the assumption that this is all children do, or are capable of doing, when they are permitted to use a device is what fuels calls for bans in schools. Ah, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

How it should work

When mobile devices are allowed or indeed supplied by a school, there is no such thing as free rein. Students use their devices for specific purposes, as and when they are instructed to by their teachers. The idea that children spend an entire lesson in front of a screen getting up to unsupervised mischief is inaccurate.

If a device is required in a lesson (note that all-important “if”) this is typically what happens: the teacher delivers content and explains the task; the teacher instructs the children to bring out their mobile devices; the children perform the set task; the teacher instructs the children to put away their devices. This process may or may not be repeated in that same lesson. The teacher never says, “Hey, kids, do whatever you like on
your phones.”

Some tasks lend themselves to the use of mobile devices. For example, smartphones and tablets are great for multimedia: children may be asked to photograph what they are learning; to make a sound recording of a musical performance or a conversation in a foreign language; or to film a practical demonstration or experiment. This may be just what is required to further their learning.

It is perfectly possible to implement a strict behaviour policy that allows the use of mobile devices in certain circumstances. If a child does not abide by the rules, he or she should face the agreed consequences. And this policy ought to apply to everything, whether or not technology is involved.

To make sure mobile devices are used appropriately, schools must set high expectations with clear rules and sanctions. Then, when a pupil misbehaves (and they will), teachers can deal with the behaviour, not the technology.

Whether they opt for a total ban, a more relaxed approach or merely asking students to use their devices to make a note of their homework, headteachers should base their decision on the school’s specific circumstances and context.

Governments and schools inspectorates should indeed contribute their findings and views to the debate about mobile devices and behaviour. But, at the end of the day, what works in schools and the reasons why tend to be highly contextualised. So we should all refrain from making sweeping statements that any headteacher worth their salt would know to ignore.

Here is a video illustrating some of the rules we have put in place at Surbiton High School, where children all have their own mobile device supplied by the school.

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