14 things to check when using education technology

This article was originally published in 2008. Apart from a few obvious points, such as the references to CDs, large monitors and, in some schools these days, computer rules, very little requires changing in terms of the advice. But the interesting aspect of the article is, I think, what is implicit. Having two computers out of commission would have been an issue in those days. Bring Your Own Technology had yet to be a possibility for most pupils. Laptops were still expensive enough to make class sets of them something to dream about. There were tablet computers, but the iPad was still two years in the future. The reference to planning to use the internet: nowadays it's virtually unavoidable because so much is online. When you think about all that, it is hard to remember that the article was written less than a decade ago!

Read More

10 uses for a computer suite

press association markupLots of schools with computer suites are getting rid of them by turning them into ordinary classrooms. The reason is that with mobile technology such as tablets, and initiatives like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), there is no longer any need for a computer suite. 

But getting rid of a computer suite is just one option: there are several others.

Read More

Is the computer lab defunct?

Having attended a conference at the Westminster Education Forum today on the future of technology in education, I am moved to raise this issue again: have computer labs had their day?

The idea that they have was mentioned two or three times. Whilst I can see the attraction of arguments in favour of mobile technology as opposed to fixed technology, I don’t think the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Rather than rehearse my arguments again, I’ll refer you to an article I wrote back in March 2011 called Come back, computer lab, all is forgiven. Hope you enjoy it.

Come back, computer lab, all is forgiven

Why is it that all innovators seem to have an “either-or” mentality, an all-or-nothing approach? “Out with the old, in with the new!” seems to be their call to action, yet sometimes – I would say often – the new is not as good as the old. At least, not so much better that the old should be dispensed with altogether.

Read More

8 Point Room Check

Use a checklist to help keep the facilities in tip-top conditionHere's a checklist you can use to help keep a computer suite in tip-top condition. Make sure the students know you will be checking as well.

Room number ____

  • Are all the computers working?

  • Are all the printers working?

  • Do the printers have paper in them?

  • Have discarded print-outs been cleared away?

  • Are all the mice working?

  • Are all the monitors working?

  • Is the network working?

  • Is there a student User ID list handy in case someone forgets their details?

This article was originally published on 14th October 2006.

In Praise of Silliness

I am all in favour of the experiment by an ATM company in London which sees instructions in rhyming slang on some of its cash machines.

People tend to be too serious, and sometimes you can achieve quite a lot in terms of making people think, or even improving learning, through the interjection of a bit of mild humour.

I’m not suggesting that these ATMs will educate people, but that a similar principle might be introduced into the school environment. When I was running an ICT department in a school, I sometimes used to put up silly notices along the lines of:

Is you is or is you ain't printing? If so…

(From the song Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?)

OK, so it didn’t produce guffaws, but then it wasn’t meant to. Just about every ICT suite has notices saying what you can’t do, what is forbidden. The overall effect is to put people on edge, in my opinion. You can grab people’s attention with an unusual and slightly humorous headline, and then state a few rules. I believe that the light-hearted opening puts them in the right, ie receptive, frame of mind.

Humour is fine to use in other places too, especially when the work can get pretty intense. I tweaked a spreadsheet once so that at the top, in the title bar, it read:

Mr Freedman says: Get on with your work!

I also had a button which said

Click here in case of an emergency.

Inevitably, clicking on it caused a message to pop up stating:

This is not an emergency! Stop messing about!

My coup de grace, however, was recording myself saying "Stop that and get back to your work", and assigning the sound file to one of the windows events on a stand-alone computer. It was quite humorous to see the reaction of a pupil experiencing it for the first time!

Of course, it goes without saying that such frivolity will not work if you have not already established classroom discipline and have really interesting work for the students to do. My aim was to try to replicate a workplace environment, in the sense that in a normal, healthy work environment people work, have a bit of a break, exchange some banter, and get on with their work. Why should school be any different?

Related article: Fings ain’t wot they used to be.

This article was first published on 26th August 2009.