Connected Educator Month

It was 2012 when I first created my twitter account however at the time I wasn’t sure why I had created an account or how I might use the account.    Some months later it was a colleague who planted the idea of using twitter for professional development.   This resulted in my logging back in to my, at that stage, dormant account and beginning to search for people discussing education and edtech in particular.   It wasn’t long before I was hooked on the access to a multitude of new ideas, opinions and resources.     Twitter proved to be a quick an easy way for me to dip in and out of professional development as and when I had the time and felt like it.    I found myself stealing 5 or 10, or if very lucky 30, minutes of time during which I could quickly scan through twitter on my phone for interesting posts regarding educational research, edtech apps and software and other educational resources.

I quickly found that I was finding more articles than I had time to read in the limited time I had managed to put aside to access twitter.   At this point I came across a number of twitter posts and through them blogs discussing how Evernote could be used.   So I started filing the tweets and blogs I found in the few minutes I managed to steal using Evernote so that I could then access them at a later stage when I had more time.

I have grown to be an avid fan of twitter and its potential to help teachers grow as professionals.    Personally twitter has allowed me to communicate with people I wouldn’t normally have been able to communicate with.   It has allowed me to access new creative ideas, which in turn has helped and encouraged me to be creative in my work.    Twitter has led me to work with others in sharing ideas, in discussing topics and in solving problems;  I have worked collaboratively.    It has also allowed me to see and discuss other viewpoints and ideas, often requiring a critical response.     Basically twitter has helped and encouraged me to use the 21st century skills we often talk about in terms of students.

Twitter has supported me to develop my 21st century skills and in doing so model for students the traits we wish them to develop.   It has also allowed me to access resources and ideas.

Tomorrow begins Connected Educator Month 2015 so I hope you will join me in sharing and in developing the teaching profession as a whole.     I also hope you will share and promote Connected Educator Month with those colleagues who have yet to experience the potential of twitter so that we can increase the number of educators sharing and collaborating to ensure  our students receive the best learning opportunities possible.

I look forward to connecting!

 

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An IT Balancing act.

ID-10011750Within the classroom, and especially within those BYOD classrooms or 1 to 1 classrooms where every student has a device, there are an ever growing number of software solutions and apps to help teachers redefine how they teach and how students learn.     The rate of growth and range of options available is huge with resources, tools and ideas available to suit all age ranges, all subject matters and all curricula.

This increase in teaching and learning options puts a demand on IT support and on a schools’ IT services to be flexible and dynamic enough to support these new options.   My belief has always been that the focus is on teaching and learning and therefore it is up to a schools’ IT services to find or develop solutions which provide for the needs of the students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders.   As such IT services should act as an enabler to allow stakeholders to use the resources which they need.

The issue here is that IT services have a number of constraints acting upon them that may run contrary to the needs of the users.   One such constraint is that of budget and especially total cost of ownership.   Users may want specific equipment to meet their specific needs however this usually costs significantly more than having standardised equipment across a school.   Standardised equipment is also easier and therefore cheaper to support.   Interoperability of systems is also an issue as end users may want specific software however this software may not work in conjunction with other software being used within the school.    Another constraint is that of legal requirements.   A school’s IT services has to be conscious of the Freedom of Information Act and Data Protection act among others.   If teachers are making use of a variety of different cloud based services such as Edmodo, ClassDojo or Google Classroom how can a schools IT services ensure that the information held on these sites is kept up to date plus how can the school ensure that they have up to date records as to what data is held on which sites plus who is responsible for this data and ensuring it remains up to date.

The key as far as I see it is balance as it is important for IT services to support the needs of those engaged in the critical job of teaching students.   That said, IT services has a responsibility to bring their skills and expertise to the table to ensure that solutions are in line with legal requirements plus are scaleable and sustainable for the longer period.

 

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Moving on….

ID-100236943I am currently in the process of starting a new job which in itself is stressful however to compound matters I am also moving house and also country of residence.    The process has so far involved just over a month living in hotels, which to most may sound like fun however you can only eat the hotel food a limited number of times before boredom sets in plus the inability to put together a light snack at random hours of the day or night is also a limitation.   There is also the issue of the overall cost of living in hotels given both the cost per night and then the additional cost for food and drink.    A significant amount of time has also been spent trying to find a more permanent place to live therefore requiring visits to countless estate agents and rental agents plus visits to various properties.   Thankfully this phase has now passed and I have found a house and now moved in.

The current phase of the transition can be likened to living like a student.    Basically the various items of furniture, etc have been ordered however as yet have not arrived and as such I am currently sleeping on the floor until the bed arrives.   The only furniture currently within the house is a TV, a TV stand on which the TV sits and also a coffee table which currently doubles as the extent of our dining furniture.

So all in all things have been very busy and stressful as of late however I haven’t as yet mentioned the major cause of stress.     I am without internet!!!!      I am currently awaiting the installation of broadband which is due to occur in almost two weeks from now so until then I have no access to internet at home.    To make matters worse mobile signal strength around my new property is very poor so I don’t even have the use of mobile internet via my phone.    It is only sat here being without internet that I find myself realising how integral internet access has became to my life (Note: Writing this I am sat without internet however clearly I must have had internet to upload this blog…..the wonders of Costa Coffee!!).    It provides me flexibility in accessing work materials to allow me to work beyond the normal hours of work and on weekends.   I find myself writing this even although there are work related issues I want to be addressing however I am unable to without internet access.   Internet provides me with a communication channel both professionally and also personally, allowing me to speak to my parents ahead of finally visiting them in person after many years away.    It provides me access to services such as water and electricity services, online banking and many more services which are all important in everyday living but possibly even more important when setting up a new home.    Basically the internet is no longer a luxury for me but in fact is now a necessity.

All of this leaves me wondering about the argument often stated with regards limiting student use and reliance on technology.    Basically these calls all come too late as we are already reliant.   Just think what would happen in your local supermarket if the computer systems went down and stopped working.   I very much doubt it would be business as usual.

Now just to be clear I believe that the critical issue in current education is teaching students the skills which will set them up for life such as the 4 C’s of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and collaboration.    It is also important to teach them about community, globalisation, character and resilience among other skills or characteristics.    The key issue for me is that we should be engaging and using technology to help develop these skills, plus we should be encouraging students to identify new ways that technology can help them in meeting their needs and wants plus in developing these skills.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Computers in schools” – My thoughts

A recent BBC article cited an OECD report which seemed to indicate that the use of computers in schools did not have an impact on student outcomes.    The article cited PISA results, comparing the countries with reportedly high usage of computers to those will significantly lower usage of computers within classes.    The evidence as cited showed that the countries with high usage performed worse than those with low usage leading to the banner headline of “Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD”.    Now the first issue I have with this is the total disregard for the massive number of variables which may impact on the results of the study however were not mentioned or discussed within the article.    It may be that socio-economic differences may have influenced results or maybe difference in the prevalent teaching styles and techniques in given countries, or the national or educational culture or climate.      The overall sampling of the student is also of concern.      The study involved examination of results across a wide range of countries and as such only took account of a small number of schools within each country.    As such the chosen schools were considered as representative of the average school in each country however schools differ in such a multitude of different ways resulting from culture, climate, staffing, curriculum, location, local economics, local job market and available finance to name but a few.    Given the above the results are at best are suggestive and the articles headline nothing short of sensationalism.

The article also identified that countries in Asia were inclined to be reluctant adopters of computers use in classrooms while achieving excellent PISA results.    The fact that these specific schools exist within a given geographical location and that this may in fact be related to the high results as opposed to any specific reluctance to adopt technology should have been identified.   Sally Weale in her article suggested that the high PISA scores for schools within Asia may not just be related to specific teaching styles in the region but may relate to the prevalent culture in the region and in schools in the region.     Their study didn’t even make any mention of technology or the slow adoption of technology as a potential factor impacting on high PISA results.

Moving away from the research side of things there is also the issue of what computers are used for in the classroom.    Computers and technology in a wider sense are just tools to be used in the classroom by the teacher much in the same way as a whiteboard, pens and paper.   How they are used depends very much on the teacher.    Some may use it a way that adds value to teaching and learning while others may use it in a way which detracts from the potential learning experience.    So maybe the issue isn’t as simple as looking at technology in isolation but instead should focus more on how technology is used.   Other aspects worthy of consideration include technology professional development and sharing or collaboration among teachers with regards technology usage as each of these may have a significant impact on the success of technology usage.

There is also the issue of why we are educating students however I will only briefly mention that as I suspect it will be a post in itself in the not too distant future.   The BBC article looks at PISA results as the outcome, suggesting that education is all about student results however as a teacher education is about more.   It is about shaping students in adults prepared for the world with the skills and characteristics to survive and thrive in the world they find themselves in beyond school.   No we all know that the world they go to will be very much a technological world beyond the current already technological world we live in.     So how can anyone think that taking technology out of classrooms or banning it from classrooms is a good idea?

 

Sources:

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD,   Sept 2015, BBC, Sean Coughlan

‘Culture, not just curriculum’, determines east Asian school success, Oct 2014, Guardian, Sally, Weale,