The articles listed below represent the main issues that were exercising my mind in each month of 2018. I was, of course, thinking about more than only 25 topics, but these are my personal favourites. A couple of themes seem to crop up more than others, these being automation (for example in marking), and better teaching or use of computing and technology.
If you have had a training day on return to school after the break, I hope it was a good one. In my experience, the training day is marred by the inclusion of a session in which a guest 'expert' addresses the whole staff. The aspects I liked best were the time available to work with my team, and the time I had on my own to get things ready for when the kids returned.
If you have any opportunity to organise your own time on a training day, here's what I suggest should be the priorities from an education technology perspective:
When the Prime Minister appointed a new Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, I was somewhat alarmed when I read somewhere that he is a reformist, because what I think we need for a while is a consolidationist, if such a word exists. On the other hand, he did tweet:
Delighted to be appointed Education Secretary – looking forward to working with the great teachers & lecturers in our schools, colleges & universities giving people the opportunities to make the most of their lives.
I note the use of the word 'with' as opposed to 'on' -- always a good sign!
The question is: will robots or AI ever replace teachers?
I think the best way of approaching this question is to think in terms of tasks rather than jobs:
When I looked into the music store room next to one of the computer labs in my new school, I didn't see a music store room. I saw a teachers' computer lab. The size and shape -- long and narrow -- were irrelevant. I knew I could make better use of it than how it was being used now.:
When I arrived at my new school, I did some research and discovered why nobody was using the computer rooms: the network kept breaking down. So a class could be within 10 minutes of the end of the lesson, when everything would go off, with the result that all their work was lost. Here are nine things you can do to encourage more teachers to use the education technology in your school:
Does having more followers mean having more influence? Generally speaking, statistics tend to be flawed, even if they have been scrupulously arrived at. The reason, as George Orwell pointed out in one of his essays, is that they don’t tell the whole story:
How do you encourage pupils and students to think critically in the context of educational technology? Although we can devote a lot of time and energy to setting up the "right environment", I can't help thinking that really it all comes down to some pretty simple questions, and very straightforward approaches:
It is at once depressing and smugness-inducing to discover that an article I wrote 17 years ago is still reasonably relevant.
The article in question is called Easy Assess, and was published in The Guardian. The subtitle is:
Using the preparing and marking facilities available on the internet can make testing easier, says Terry Freedman
The trouble is, automation never comes up to the standards achievable by human beings. I'll give a few examples to show what I mean:
I don't think we can avoid innovation, especially in a field like education technology or computing. Indeed, I think we should embrace it. However, there can be little doubt that from a school point of view, innovation 'from the top' is relentless. A few years ago I was invited to address a group of trainee teachers on the topic of the government initiatives currently in place in what was then ICT (Information and Communications Technology). I stopped when I reached 40.
I have to say that I am becoming increasingly frustrated at the number of people who think that because young people seem to know about technology and how to use it or code it, then by default nobody needs to be taught anything about it:
I can’t remember who it was, but one writer was asked how he writes, and said “I wait for inspiration.” When asked what he did whilst waiting for inspiration, he answered “I write”. It’s a painful process. Ernest Hemingway, when asked if he enjoyed writing, said “I enjoy having written”, which is exactly how I feel about working out in the gym:
The people who say we can deal with the lack of Computing teachers by using ‘facilitators’, or getting the kids to learn from each other, don’t know what they’re talking about. A good ICT or Computing teacher, by which I mean one that understands what real teaching is, will do everything a so-called ‘facilitator’ would do, and more:
If it takes ten minutes to log on, 15 minutes to figure out how to do basic things like enter text and save, and then (taking the example I gave earlier) forty five minutes to find a printer, then the person's time has been well and truly wasted:
If you are going to run an internet training day, then one of the prerequisites for a successful event is access to the internet. So imagine my dismay when, five minutes before my demonstration to over 100 teachers was about to begin, I was informed by the local authority. that the internet had gone down all over the borough….
Over the summer break the Department for Education issued information about eligible qualifications in 2019 and 2020, at Key Stage 4 and 16-18.
I sifted through them and collated all the ed tech-related ones: computing, information technology, digital media and so on:
My mantra as far as technology is concerned is that it’s not a matter of if it goes wrong, but when. But in the story which follows, a plan B wouldn’t have been much use, because there wouldn’t have been anywhere to execute it:
You don’t need to know about a subject in order to fire people up about a new tool technique for teaching it. For example, my knowledge of science can be written on the back of a postage stamp, and there would still be room for marginal notes. Nevertheless, when a head of Science in a secondary school phoned me one day and said:
“Terry, I’d like some IT training for my department, but we’ve covered all the usual stuff. I need you to show us something new and exciting!”,
I knew the answer straight away…
“Excuse me, but would you mind sitting still while I bash you over the head with this rolled up paper containing my latest research findings?”
I didn’t really say that of course, but I might just as well have….
Having had experience, both direct and indirect, of high-profile Government education technology initiatives, I have my doubts as to their efficacy over the long term, or even in some cases the short term:
Motivating people to do things is pretty difficult, or can be. Even motivating yourself to do something can be an uphill task. So how do you go about it?
As a teacher, I was always determined to make it clear that I always mean what I say. For example, if I set a deadline for homework and someone didn’t hand it in, I wouldn’t mark it. You only need to do that once for the message to get home.
I have also tried my best to say what I mean, and I think on the whole I succeed. But it really is astonishing how sometimes a statement gets completely misunderstood or misquoted.
You want to do the best by your pupils when it comes to marking their work, but it’s important to reflect that your own sanity is important too. Like many teachers, I spent several years lugging exercise books home to mark. The only thing worse than feeling tired but knowing you have to mark 30 books by tomorrow morning is that feeling of ennui at 5 o-clock on a grim Sunday evening when all you want to do is curl up with a mug of tea and watch a movie, but having those exercise books smirking back at you.
Teachers using an evidence-informed approach has been going on for at least as long as I’ve been in education, and I started teaching in 1975. Yet the Chief Inspector is: “
…struck” by how enthusiastically teachers, lecturers and social workers are discussing and debating how to improve their practice on the back of evidence-based research…”
We all know the hazards of making predictions, but several brave companies and one school (so far) have thrown caution to the winds and done so!
I asked two main questions:
What do you think will be the main things we'll be seeing in ed tech in 2019?
What do you think will be the main ed tech challenges in 2019?
I hope you found at least some of those articles interesting, useful or both.