Here are 5 articles from last week that you may find interesting, covering writing, blogging and education technology.Read More
A selection of articles on education technology you may have missed, from last week, last year, and the Digital Education newsletter.Read More
Here are links to some articles about Computing and ICT from last week, and one from last year and also information about an article on the subject of teaching Computing in our newsletter.Read More
Here's a list of benefits of using education technology in lessons.Read More
Three communities that ICT and Computing teachers should join.Read More
So, you're responsible for the use of educational technology in the school, but its use and principles are taught across the curriculum rather than as a discrete subject. In other words, by non-specialists in all likelihood. How can you maintain high standards in ICT and the use of educational technology in such a situation?
In this article I look at 14 suggestions.
The phrase “May you live in interesting times” is usually cited as a sort of curse, but can you imagine the opposite, ie living in boring times? Fortunately, especially here in England there is no danger of that for a while, at least in the world of ICT. Here are a few snippets of news which I won’t comment on at the moment because I like to cogitate, reflect, and then cogitate some more before pontificating. As I said in a previous article (10 Obligations of Bloggers), quoting Salvator Rosa, I believe in the adage “Be silent, unless what you have to say is better than silence”.
ICT teacher Nigel Willetts discusses ICT qualifications and their associated syllabuses. This is a longer-than-usual article, but it's a great rant read. Enjoy!
I apologise in advance. What follows is a rant! Terry was forewarned! However, the purpose of such a rant is to instigate a debate with regard to what we, as ICT teachers/specialists are expected to deliver and examine our pupils on in our schools. The focus is firmly on the GCSE/AS and A2 ICT curriculum. I am not even sure if I have any tangible answers myself, but, in my experience of educationalists, we all love a good rant/debate, don’t we?
Yesterday I submitted my response to the English Government’s consultation on the issue of whether the ICT Programme of Study should be disapplied from September 2012. The consultation period ends today. I think responding is a very important thing to do, for reasons I’ll go into in a moment, but first, an explanation to readers not living in England, or a reminder to those who are.
In a nutshell, and somewhat paraphrasing, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education in England, said:
It is so unusual to find a young person who not only likes ICT lessons but will actually admit to it, that when I heard that Maddi fell into that category, I just had to ask her to write about it for me. Here’s what she says…
The internet, something one could have lived without many, many years ago but now one can really only just last a week without somehow using or coming into contact with it. I hear people say technology such as computers has destroyed society or is killing normal communication. But I consider these comments as naive sniggers, for I believe that anyone who has discovered the incredible uses for the internet would not say such a thing. The web is an extraordinary invention and has given me the chance to communicate with people and civilisations that pen and paper could never offer me.
Last year with video link up, I and three fellow class mates were able to give a presentation to thousands of teachers, students and educators who attended the Flat Classroom Conference in Qatar. This was an unreal experience and it was one of the first times I realised how phenomenal the internet is.
I was also a participant in a large international project which helped me learn that understanding the internet isn't just about learning what buttons to press or how to navigate through it. I learnt how to behave on the web, how to be safe, the manners and language that are appropriate and many other social and cultural aspects of the internet. On the internet you really have to watch what you say because something 'funny' you say could be offensive or misinterpreted by other people. To me, talking to someone face to face is a lot easier and quicker, but I find talking to people over the internet is an adventure in itself. I think it is a great way for school students to make friends.
I guess there is more to ICT than just internet though. I would confidently say that I would use my laptop everyday to type up school work or edit photos. I think one of the reasons ICT is so appealing to me is because you can take something simple like a photo and transform it into something beautiful in seconds, and it is so easy and the programs available today open so many doors for your creative minds to step right into.
I would definitely encourage ICT as a compulsory subject up to at least year 9 because ICT is a subject just waiting to be truly discovered and explored. As I write this I know that the internet is continuing to grow in fabulous ways and I really want people my age to go and explore.
This is a slightly amended version of an article which first appeared in Computers in Classrooms, the free e-newsletter. The next issue is a games-based learning special, and we're running a prize draw to give away 2 marvellous prizes. More on that tomorrow.
#iCTLT2010 If I were asked to give a one-phrase description of education in Singapore, I should have to say that the overriding impression is one of faith and trust. Faith in the ability of the child to rise to challenges that we might consider beyond their years. Trust in the ability of the teacher to guide the youngsters and nurture their talents and abilities.
Faith and trust also in their ability to look at what other countries have done and experiment and come up with solutions all their own.
I am not naive. I understand that when one visits a foreign country, one will be shown the best, not the worst or even the mediocre. But seeing the best is actually what should happen: we need to see what our own students might aspire to given the right circumstances and ingredients.
Two mottos struck me as especially noteworthy. One is the Ministry of Education's ideal that teachers should teach less in order that students may learn more. Teach Less, Learn More, or TLLM, appears to be another way of stating the 'guide on the side' idea, but it seems to me to run deeper. The TLLM philosophy is not simply to leave the students to it, but to encourage and guide them in asking important questions, and then seeking the answers.
The other motto is 'Every Child Ready for the World'. This strikes me as so much more positive than our own, unfortunately necessary, Every Child Matters. One of the strengths of our education system is that it considers the whole child; school is not only an educational (in the narrow sense) establishment, but the hub of the community and the locus for all sorts of services – police, social, medical – that may impinge on the individual child.
But that is also its weakness. As Michael Gove has pointed out, there is no official body in England that is solely concerned with excellence in school. We do not have a ministry of education, we have a department for children, schools and families. Even Ofsted, the inspection body, is not exclusively focused on schools, but in everything ranging from childcare provision to old age homes.
I'm not familiar enough with the Singaporean education system to be able to say whether they have cracked this dilemma, of striking the right balance between the academic and the social and emotional aspects of the child's experience. But certainly what we saw was impressive: students, even as young as 8, who were articulate about what they have done, and why; students who have worked with mentors in further education in extended projects; students who are able to work well with each other.
I don't think they have completely got it right. A teacher who has been doing very innovative work in science gives her class a pencil and paper test every six weeks. There is no slot on the curriculum for ICT, which is embedded in other subjects across the curriculum. Many will agree with this philosophically, but in my experience it's quite difficult to make it work.
Despite such doubts, for me the real issue is not whether Singaporean children are ready for the world, but whether the world is ready for them.
One of the hazards of teaching youngsters about educational technology -- well, any subject I suppose -- is that it's all too easy to become predictable.
What's a database for? Storing data. Yawn. What's a spreadsheet for? Modelling. Snooze. Yes, I know that we have to address such things -- indeed, would be failing in our obligations if we didn't -- but sometimes it does a lot of good to be a little 'left field' about it all, where possible.
Here are some ideas.
1. Look out for modern dress productions of Shakespeare
One of the best I've ever seen was a production of Julius Caesar. There were many fine moments in it, but the two which really stood out for me were the following:
In Act 1 Scene 2, Cassius says to Casca,
"Will you sup with me tonight, Casca?",
to which Casca replies,
"No, I am promised forth."
I the production I referred to, Casca didn't answer straight away. Instead, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a PDA, flipped it open, checked it for a few seconds, closed it, and put it away, and then said,
"I am promised forth."
Marvellous! Needless to say, the audience laughed its collective head off.
Later in the play, the action takes place in Mark Antony's camp. In this production, as the curtains draw apart we saw someone putting sheets of paper through a shredding machine. From an Eng Lit point of view this is wonderful, because it sows a few seeds of doubt in the audience's mind: what's being shredded, and why? Is Mark Anthony as squeaky clean as we were perhaps led to believe?
A very good film is Ian McKellan's Richard The Third, in which the first scene opens with a tickertape being transmitted. There's a discussion about technology in itself. If you teach modern history and you want to convey what Hitler's Germany was like, or a Citizenship teacher wanting to discuss ethics and loyalty, you could do a lot worse than show this film.
2. Bring old stories up to date
Similar to the first idea, this is all about getting the class to think about how modern technology would have been used by historical figures.
A good one I tried once was about Jesus. Instead of preaching the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps he'd have used YouTube. What difficulties might he have faced (a) getting his message across to as many people as possible, and (b) being believed?
Once you start to look at these things in a modern setting, the ideas, and even the language, seem less remote. In this way, focusing on modern technology can help to make subjects like history and Religious Education more comprehendible.
3. Look for alternative ways of presenting concepts
For example, I love this spreadsheet poem.
It's another way of getting the pupils to think about mathematical relationships. You could ask them to work out the relationships for themselves, before showing them the poem. You could devise a much simpler one, and then ask them to do the same.
4. Use technology to help you see things in different ways
I witnessed a very effective art lesson (for teachers) once, in which the tutor gave out digital cameras and instructed the teachers to go out and take pictures of textures. "Get right up close and personal", he told them. And they did: close-ups of brickwork and carpet tiles, to mention just two, were enough to stimulate discussion about texture, pattern, colours and shadows.
5. Use your imagination
Or rather, get the students to use theirs. How could a writer make use of a handheld camcorder, for example? Or, turning this idea on its head, what yet-to-be-invented gadget would be a real boon to an author?
You don't have to know the answers to such questions, because the important thing is the discussion and presentation which ensue.
6. Get reading
In the current issue of The Author, the Society of Author's magazine, there is an article about the use of historical fiction in the teaching of history:
"Rebecca Sullivan, CEO of the Historical Association, a charity that exists to promote and support the study and teaching of history at all levels, [said] 'Fiction can engage pupils and open them to more thought and study. Teachers use historical fiction because it improves historical understanding in pupils.'"
How much use of fiction do teachers of ICT use? There are some rich pickings, such as:
The dialogue between the astronaut and Hal, the all-powerful computer, in 2001: A Space Odyssey
The marvellous piece from Asimov, The Machine That Won the War
The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin
Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys,
And last but not least, the brilliant news flash, 'Time travel is possible'
These stories can be great starting points for discussion, not only in the educational technology classroom, but for other subjects too.
7. Designing the classroom
Finally, a nice activity is a project in which pupils, working in groups, have to analyse the classroom and come up with ways in which it could be enhanced with technology. Part of that will have to include any refurbishments which may be necessary to accommodate the changes (such as a storage facility for a class set of mp3 recorders).
Needless to say, groups should present their findings and ideas to the rest of the class and even, if there's a particularly mouth-watering idea, to the Principal.
The thing that all of these ideas have in common is that they stray from the 'norm', and that gives them a bit of a punch.
What 'outside the box' ideas have you used to teach technology, or with technology?
If you enjoyed reading this article, you will probably find this one useful too:
Well, the poll I was running has now closed. It was open for a week (Monday to Friday), and in that time 121 people responded. I'll be post the results here soon.
So, to coin a phrase:
Watch this space!