Search this site

Thought for the day

Each day a randomly-selected "law", observation or suggestion will appear here.

Last 100 articles
Free subscriptions

 Subscribe to our free newsletter, Digital Education!

Digital Education cover late july 2014

 It's free. Signing up entitles you to various freebies. We use a double opt-in system, and we won't spam you.

Sign-up page.


The DfE Assessment Innovations series collated. This booklet is free to subscribers of Digital Education.

Be notified by email if you prefer:


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

The Amazing Computer Education Project Book

Remember this?

Amazing Web 2.0 Projects

It’s been downloaded over 35,000 times. I’m hoping to create a similar Computer Education Projects book, which will also be free. Find out how you can help by reading this article:

The Amazing Computer Education Projects Book


Digital Education

News, views and reviews. In-depth articles. Guest contributors. Competitions. Discount codes.

(Not necessarily all in the same issue, but each issue is full of good stuff nonetheless!)

Sign up for our free newsletter now!


Oh No!!If you can't find what you're looking for...

Assuming you’ve tried variations of your search term and checked the spelling without any luck, you may find the article Finding stuff on the ICT in Education website helpful.

Alternatively, if it’s not an article you’re looking for, try looking through the menus at the top of the screen.

E-Books for Sale

Want to make your ICT lessons more interesting?

Then Go on, bore ‘em: How to make your ICT lessons excruciatingly dull is just right for you.

Clustr Map
Terry Freedman's Social Profile
Powered by Squarespace

« Review of the Technology for Print Disabilities Training Day | Main | Mystery solved? »
Tuesday
Jul242012

The stimulating classroom

It seems paradoxical, but the most boring classrooms tend to be the ones that are full of technology – and little else. The worst ones I’ve been into are those in which 30 or more computers are crammed into rows, allowing no room for note-taking, let alone collaboration. But even the ones with wall-to-wall interactive display screens, visualisers, graphic tablets etc etc are often, to be frank, Tedium City. How come?

Of course, there is such a thing as too MUCH stimulation!I think the reason, in a nutshell, is that in the sorts of classrooms I’ve just described, the emphasis is on technology rather than learning. What a shame. What a missed opportunity. Even if all you do is look at the headings in the (now disapplied) ICT Programme of Study in England, you will discover rich prompts for stimulating learning, such as:

  • Finding things out
  • Developing ideas and making things happen
  • Exchanging and sharing information

Primary (elementary) classrooms tend to have this more right, or right more often, than secondary (high) schools in my experience. Secondary schools are serious, with a timetable to stick to come what may, whereas primary schools have still not entirely lost that ethos of exploration they are so good at, despite numerous “initiatives” over the years to ensure that anything that moves, or even anything that doesn’t move, is measured.

So what sort of things should a classroom have? I’m basing this list partly on my own experience of having taught in secondary schools over many years, and my visits to what I considered to be the schools where the ICT classrooms were the most vibrant.

Different areas

Different sorts of activity require different kinds of spaces. Within the classroom there should be an area where students can use the school’s computers, and places they can sit and plug their own device in if they need to. There should be places where students can collaborate, using pencil and paper if necessary, at tables. There should also be, if space allows, some comfy chairs too. If the school wireless network, layout and rules allow, the classroom can be extended beyond its walls by allowing students to work outside.

In my experience, even if the room you have is incredibly small, you can still arrange furniture and equipment in such a way that you can accommodate different sorts of spaces. And if you can’t then I would suggest, at the risk of being designated a pariah, that you might consider getting rid of some of the equipment. Nobody needs one-to-one computing all the time, and for learning purposes it’s not usually the most effective strategy anyway unless you build in opportunities for collaborating with others.

Books

Not e-books, but books. Not because I’m a Luddite (I’m not), but for four reasons:

First, the very practical one that if you have a few manuals and other books around, it is easy to pick them up and look things up while your partner is working at the screen.

Second, the nature of the books don’t have to be restricted to manuals. There are science fiction novels and short stories related to technology, books about the development of cyber warfare, books about the rise of Google and the fall of Boo. All sorts of technology-related books to stimulate thinking and broaden the mind. I dare you to start a class library.

Third, there’s a hidden message that old technology is still important and useful. Ebooks are great, no doubt about it, but there’s no reason to ditch paper ones, especially as you can’t display ebooks on a bookshelf as far as I know.

Fourth, I think it designates the classroom as a place of learning, not a hub of technology. I think that’s important.

Magazines and other periodicals

I always had newspapers, magazines and even comics in my classroom. I used to buy a lot of computer mags, and I’d bring them in when I was finished with them. If you want a student to write a software review, show them a variety of types of review in different magazines; they’ll soon get the idea. Even the Sunday newspaper supplements sometimes have interesting articles, such as on cyberbullying. And the comics? Well, comics like 2000 AD or the Marvel comics, though somewhat outlandish in many respects, have interesting ideas and a great appearance from a design point of view. One of the requirements (disapplication or not) of any ICT curriculum worthy of the name should be the ability to present information in a variety of formats according to its purpose and intended audience, and comics or, if you prefer the grown-up term, graphic novels, can be pretty effective.

A stand-alone computer

I always liked to have a computer that wasn’t connected to the rest of the network. Yes, I know it’s a bit retro, but it meant that students could check out DVDs without having to go through a whole rigmarole to gain access to the DVD drive. It also meant that they could use programs that were not available on the network, or in the cloud but not available from the network. I also used it to play music while we worked – Vivaldi, which tended to keep the kids both calm and productive at the same time!

These are just a few ideas, and I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface. In my opinion, the classroom should be a powerhouse of learning and exploration. If that’s the starting point, then in my experience learning will follow much more than if the starting point is technology.

You may find these articles and collections of articles useful:

The classroom environment

ICT Posters: Credit rating

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (1)

I like your ideas. As far as I'm concerned, a classroom library is always a good idea, no matter what the grade level.
August 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralanc230

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.