Monthly Archives: September 2015

No tech at this school – or in their pupils’ homes

There has been much in the press of late about the efficacy of technology for educational purposes in UK schools. There is also debate about the pointlessness of investing vast sums in the latest gadgets and gizmos when there is often woefully little CPD aimed at the necessary pedagogical changes that are required to realise the potential that well deployed tech can offer.

For those that can afford the £11000 annual fees, the London Acorn School is reported as having no interactive whiteboards, TV screens, ICT suites, iPads or smart phones – and parents are expected to remove these from their homes too.

The school’s rules stare that children are not allowed TV at all before age 12, and then only previously vetted documentaries. Films are introduced from 14, and the internet from age 16. Computers are only used as part of the school curriculum at KS4. It is unclear how children with no previous access to computing devices might engage with GCSEs or other qualifications in computer science or IT.

TCSC acknowledges the research that suggests too much ‘screen-time’ can have a damaging effect on the development of young children. TCSC also acknowledges the value of outdoor play and of reading good old fashioned books.

That said, TCSC supports the view that children need to be taught how to use tech effectively, discerningly and appropriately. Completely removing children from technology does not remove concerns regarding eSafety and eSafeguarding; it merely delays them. For parents to deliberately choose to deny their children access to technology that, when well used with appropriate pedagogies, has been shown to impact positively on learning outcomes (like blogging, for example) seems odd, to say the least.

According to the report, parents of Acorn pupils seem happier about the lack of tech than their children are, and TCSC wonders whether those children might be getting their tech ‘fix’ at friends’ houses – unsupervised, with all the risks that carries.

TCSC also wonders whether Acorn staff are also expected to discharge their professional duties in a technological wilderness.

Always Read Beyond the Headlines

You may have noticed a flurry of activity in the news and social media this morning around the publication of an OECD report into the impact of technology on education. Headlines have been declaring that “School computers do not raise results”.

Well, d’uh, of course they don’t – computers are inanimate objects. Teachers impact on learning, and teachers with the pedagogical expertise to use technology effectively impact on learning the most. Carefully planned investment is key, but useless without effective and relevant CPD for the teachers expected to integrate new technologies into their classroom practice.

And in any case, that’s not what the report says at all. Here is the OECD press release, issued at midnight last night:

UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL TUESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER AT 01:01 A.M. (PARIS TIME)

New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools, says OECD

Schools have yet to take advantage of the potential of technology in the classroom to tackle the digital divide and give every student the skills they need in today’s connected world, according to the first OECD PISA assessment of digital skills.

“Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” says that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science.

Ensuring that every child reaches a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than solely expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services, says the OECD.

In 2012, 96% of 15-year-old students in OECD countries reported having a computer at home, but only 72% reported using one at school. Overall, students who use computers moderately at school tend to have somewhat better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely. But students who use computers very frequently at school do much worse, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”#

The report found that the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in digital reading was very similar to the differences in performance in the traditional PISA reading test, despite the vast majority of students using computers whatever their background. This suggests that to reduce inequalities in digital skills, countries need to improve equity in education first.

To assess their digital skills, the test required students in 31 countries and economies* to use a keyboard and mouse to navigate texts by using tools like hyperlinks, browser button or scrolling, in order to access information, as well as make a chart from data or use on-screen calculators.

Top performers were Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong-China, Japan, Canada and Shanghai-China. This reflects closely their performances in the 2012 print-reading test, suggesting that many of the skills essential for online navigation can also be taught and learned using standard, analogue reading techniques.

But the report reveals striking differences. Students in Korea and Singapore perform significantly better online than students in other countries with similar performance in print reading, as do students in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong-China, Japan and the United States. In contrast, students in Poland and Shanghai-China – both strong performers in print reading – do less well transferring their print-reading skills to an online environment.

* Participating countries and economies: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Chinese-Taipei, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hong Kong-China, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macao-China, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Shanghai-China, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

More information on the assessment and findings of this report is also available at: http://www.oecd.org/education/students-computers-and-learning-9789264239555-en.htm.

For further information, journalists should contact the OECD Media division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00).

#Bold and underline emphases added by TCSC for clarity in the blog post

Mobile Tech in the Classroom?

Once again, senior people who should know better (but apparently don’t) are confusing behaviour with technology. It is being reported in the news that hand-held digital devices in class will cause at least a distraction, and possibly huge behaviour issues.

In my experience of teaching Y6 on a warm summer’s day, the weekly visit of the grass-cutting tractor caused a distraction. Should we ban mowing the playing fields? Of course not. We paused, acknowledged its presence, and continued with our teaching and learning.

What else can cause a distraction to learning? Arriving at school without having eaten breakfast, family traumas, lack of sleep… Should we ban poverty and fear? It’s tempting.

As for behaviour, children – and adults – are perfectly capable of being unpleasant to each other without the luxury of technology.

Technology cannot be un-invented, nor can it be ignored. How many of our government’s various tsars would wish to last a day without internet access? Why should children have to line up and walk through the school for their weekly visit to the library to do their research? Books – and TCSC loves them – become dated as soon as they are published. The internet doesn’t.

What our children need is not a blanket ban but well informed teaching staff able to offer a structure and guidance for appropriate use of technology. They need good role models. They need the opportunity to be able to exploit the huge potential offered by technology to learn more, more effectively, and more deeply than ever before.

There is plenty of support out there to help schools achieve this – just ‘Google’ “eSafety”. You could do worse than eCadets, 360 Degree Safe, BOOST or of course ThinkUKnow and CEOP.

Alternatively, request an eSafety briefing for sections of your school community (pupils, parents, staff or governors) from the TCSC team. It’s all FREE to Bury Primary Learning Collaborative schools.

But maybe we’re missing the point. Maybe all the fuss about the distractions of handheld technology, and the potential for its inappropriate use, stems from government ministers’ own experience of being caught by news media playing Candy Crush during important meetings…

The Raspberry Pi Experience

This term’s Raspberry Pi Experiences got off to a cracking start last week with staff and pupils from Greenhill, Old Hall and Holy Trinity all attending a session in TCSC’s main training room.

There was great excitement as the children swept the teachers out of the way to get hands on with the tech – with remarkable results.

Each school now has a box of 6 Raspberry Pis along with associated peripherals and lesson ideas to use in school for the rest of the half term.

Interested? More sessions will be run on November 6, 11 and 12 from 1-3pm. Up to 2 members of KS2 staff are welcome, with up to 3 KS2 pupils (that’s one car load per school) – this experience would suit your Gifted and Talented children, so why not give them a treat!

Attendance and kit load is FREE to members of the Bury Primary Learning Collaborative – please visit http://bplc.org.uk/courses/ or email educationdtc@bury.gov.uk to applyCOdntZ0WcAAgOYH COdpx72XAAAdQL- COdveolWIAA4eCc untitled1