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What’s the point of technology?

The Sydney Morning Herald ran an article headlined “This is why Finland has the best schools” on 26th March 2016.
It makes good reading if you are from Finland.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran an article headlined ‘The reality is that technology is doing more harm than good in our schools’ says education chief on 31st March, 2016.
It doesn’t make good reading if you are interested and passionate about technology and education.

My colleague Ilpo Halonen from FInland on 22nd March, 2016 reported that, “Helsinki intends to invest 37 million euro to achieve 1:1 (one computer per student) for all students of 7-9 grades, and 1:2 for lower grades.”
It makes good reading if you admire the finish education system and are passionate about technology and education.

The “Why Finland has the best schools” article doesn’t mention the use of technology at all.

However, (to quote on of my really good friends @Tess24B) there are things that I think about all of this.

I have advocated technology for years and years. It takes time to change and embed but at www.greenparkschool.org.uk the use of technology to help teaching AND learning has been effective and I reckon value for money. Probably, over the years, our biggest single spend was IWB’s which on reflection we should have invested in a few tins of paint and made our walls smoother.

We use Chromebooks (we buy the cheapest), make use of recycled charging cabinets (very expensive new) and have iPads.

The pupils use these devices intelligently and responsibly (usually) and now teach children from other schools how to use Google Apps for Education. It is not unusual for them to pass on a tip or two to the teachers. They also communicate to each other while using their devices and they manage to go outside to do PE.

There is a demand for more devices. In the world of data analysis and Ofsted, the impact of technology on teaching and learning has to be positive otherwise technology is an expensive waste of time.

I also have a grandson called Charlie (nearly four) and another called Bobby (15 months) . I sometimes mention Charlie when I talk about technology. He has grown up with technology as another one of his toys or boxes or slugs or paints or pieces of chocolate cake). Therefore he uses his technology to do what he needs to do with the technology that he (currently) knows how to use.

Last Saturday he was quite desperate to go to Knowsley Safari Park . He asked his mum, @lauraramo but it wasn’t going to happen. So Charlie had a problem. How to get to the safari park.

iPhone, Whatsapp, voice message to Nanny Sheila. “No”.

iPhone, Whatsapp, voice message to @stevie_raff & @loishonora . “No”.

iPhone, Whatsapp, voice message to Aunty Lyn (who never says no). “Yes, I’ll take you Charlie.”

So Aunty Lyn, Nanny Gill and Charlie went to Knowsley Safari Park.

@lauraramo had one or two things to say to Charlie (who had acquired her phone) but in Charlie’s terms he’s solved his problem.

How will he use technology when he goes to school? Will school provide opportunities? Will school ban technology and call it an expensive waste of time.

I also think that in the middle of of all the testing and assessing and evaluating that there should be one test that gives pupils the opportunity to demonstrate their digital research, collaboration, networking skills. Along the lines of:

In an envelope their is an unseen question. You have three or two or one  hour to find the solution. You may use this digital device and you can find your information from wherever you can.

I’m worried that haven’t used a fronted adverbial in my blog post.

 

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Digitally Organic

I started writing a blog post last night that had taken nearly a year of thinking about. It was (is) called “February Made Me Shiver” and was based on one of my less successful adventures. I felt it needed writing.

There was a connection with this particular blog post and the idea, which I had been talking about with a cohort of Scitt students last week, that blogging, as well as being a great teaching and learning tool,  is also hugely valuable for personal reflections. Go back through my blog archives and you’ll see what I mean.

(At this point I’m thinking that  this writing just wouldn’t do very well in the upcoming KS1 writing assessment….writing can only be worthwhile or “high quality” if it is technically correct with lots of things in it which can be ticked off as being “evidenced”. I have somewhere a photograph taken when I was queuing up with thousands upon thousands of other people to go inside Anfield after the Hillsborough Disaster. Arriving at where the then Kemlyn Road Stand was (now the Centenary Stand) there was a banner (the photograph) that said, “Look after them Shank’s”. The apostrophe shouldn’t have been included and I noticed it. Sometimes the message is more important.)

Well it was February last year and I had been booked to deliver a course that I had done (with success according to the feedback) before, but instead of driving to Manchester and arriving in good time to find the venue and prepare for the day’s events, this time I had to travel to London. I had been told that it was a venue close to Euston station which meant getting the first train from Liverpool would get me there in enough time. It wasn’t close to Euston, it wasn’t even near!  I had to carry three lumpy, tricky items on the Underground…my suitcase handle broke, everything fell down the escalator, there were course participants already at the venue, I set up hurriedly, the WiFi (for an internet based course) was poor, the room was hot, there wasn’t any tables for laptops just rows of seats, the room was too small and so on and so on….and so when I hear the words “February made me shiver” in American Pie I think of that day. It was a pretty rubbish day. If you were there, you’ll know.

However, as I was writing the first few sentences of “February Made Me Shiver” I came across  #DojoChatEU on Twitter and got involved:

One of the discussion points was about a whole school approach to using technology and I tweeted that, “Blogging is brilliant for starting and continuing with an organic digital journey.” and I got this reply from Ben Hall.

organic 1

 

Well, to be honest I didn’t come up with the phrase organic digital journey, that was @greenparkschool ‘s Ms Robinson (very non techy and doesn’t mind admitting it but uses techy tools very well). It does however sum up Green Park’s digital approach very well.

The term digital journey is based around the idea that we have never had a long term plan or examined research to discover what works and doesn’t work it terms of educational technology (which is not to say either isn’t valuable). We started our school blog in 2005 and it is still going today. It has been an incredibly valuable tool for yes, sharing our school’s activities, but much more in developing the digital skills of teachers and pupils ( and a few more besides).

We don’t have cupboards with expensive unused technology in. We do use every bit of technology that we have in school. We don’t have an ICT Suite but we do have a Beautiful Room. We have Chromebooks and iPads that are used across the school and used in each and every classroom. We do have teachers and pupils who want to use technology and use it creatively for teaching and learning and admin and to make the life of a teacher (and pupil) a little bit easier – our investigation into boys attitudes towards writing proved this. We love it when our pupils go home and create their own work and share it with their teachers. We like to use the internet everyday in every class but need more equipment to achieve this. We do know that there can be difficulties with technology …… but there can be difficulties with anything. We have contacts around the world and we work with local schools with out children teaching their children how to …. and they do it very well. Non Green Park teachers come to our school and go away with different ideas. We have Scitt students who get a grasp of our technology can impact learning and sometimes people come to our school to look round and take ideas back to their own schools and sometime even blog about it.

bidder

We even have Sparkly Letters (completely lo-tech) that have connected our pupils to national and world leaders in the world of technology…… I could, and often do, go on but the point is that within school, this change has grown organically. Sometimes things take time. Our use of Google Apps for Education started five years ago but it only really took off maybe two years ago. Ask now (teachers or pupils) whether they teach or learn without these tools now……I know what they would say. Other tools happen to be in the right time at the right place for the right reason. Collecting evidence for Ofsted and a rather grumpy, have to do more work on top of all of the work we already do because we know Ofsted are calling in the next twelve months, was a perfect case of digital tools providing the solution to the problem. One of the Inspectors took this back to his own school.

No, not everything is perfect, but Ofsted said lots of (not in the report of course) very nice things about our digital approach which was good but the real reason we use this stuff is because it makes a difference.

The thought of last year’s February does make me shiver and although it is (sunny) but cold today, it was Ben Hall’s (@hengehall) tweet last night that diverted me away from that day in London and pointed me in a completely different direction.

Green Park have a tree as their symbol.

tree1

 

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3D Projectors and a little bit of Bett 2016

3D projectors are great. A half decent one costs less that £500. There was a time and a BETT when they were all the rage. Stall after stall after stall offered each and every classroom across the country the joyous prospect of having the kind of technology to create learning opportunities filled with awe and wonder. In the olden days 3D projectors weren’t £500.

Now while I’m definitely not saying that 3D projectors didn’t appear in any school or classroom, and I’m not saying that those that did appear didn’t transform the learning experiences of hundreds and thousands of pupils, but what I am saying is that since that particular BETT I haven’t seen a single one and indeed if there are any 3D projectors still out there they’re probably tucked away in those cupboards schools keep for storing IT equipment that no one is quite sure what to do with. They did that year however, fill a great deal of expensive floor space.

The year of the 3D projector was, for me, a day trip to BETT and while such trips are great, seeing new ideas and meeting people, they can be something of a whirlwind experience. This year I was at BETT from start to finish, so rather than a fleeting general impression, there was more opportunity to see and witness a full view.

What I did see, and my lasting view of the event, was not so much big technology, or even necessarily large companies like Google and Microsoft, though their stands seemed to permanently attracted large and attentive audiences, but two smaller and very energetic areas that attracted attention in similar but different ways.

The first was the BETT Futures section. A specific place for creative and innovative people to present their educational ideas to a wider audience. What a great concept. In the years to come some of BETT Future exhibitors will move successfully into the mainstream educational technology market. Maybe my own experience of being introduced to ToneTree and Pocket Lab at GSV Labs in sunny California very recently and then meeting up with them while they demonstrated their brilliant products at BETT, has influenced my view on just how important and valuable the Futures areas at BETT is.

In a sense my second choice has a similar theme of next generation in that it is about being creative and innovative and preparing for the future. The Maker Movement has its roots in arts and crafts and DIY but now with the idea of having and using technology in new and different ways. The Microbit, Raspberry Pi, Galileo, Arduino, cloud collaboration and sharing were all hugely successful aspects of this year’s BETT. Perhaps my favourite moment of the whole week was on Saturday. An older gentleman with a long grey beard stopped to chat with me at the Intel stand. From an old and scruffy plastic bag he pulled out a home made circuit board made with a wooden base and just about held together with bits of solder but it worked (he assured me) and was a TV remote control and he has been trying to develop this project with his local primary school. Why I didn’t photograph the man and his board I don’t know but for me, it summed up the idea of technology moving into the hands of the people and particularly pupils who are using it.

What I didn’t see at Bett were any 3D projectors…….but I did get the photograph!

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