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.