Bett 2017

bettphotoA year ago I visited the BETT conference after a significant absence resulting from my time working out in the UAE.     At the time I was disappointed however I attributed a large part of this as related to a lack of planning on my part.   So for 2017 I had to make sure not to repeat this.

And so it was, that this time around I made sure I had a plan in place for my one day visit.   I had chosen to visit on the Thursday to coincide with some of our students working with i3 technologies, with the idea that I would be able to travel down with the students.   As it happened I ended up travelling down myself however stuck to the planned day with a hope to catch the students session.

Prior to BETT opening I sat down outside the venue and reviewed my plan making sure I knew where each of the stands I intended to visit were, marking them on the venue map which had been provided.    My initial plan included a number of vendors which I wanted to visit with a focus on solutions for monitoring internet traffic and e-Safety.    I also had decided upon five presentations which I hoped to see covering a variety of topics including e-Safety, measuring educational technology success and also using Windows 10 in classrooms.

My day turned out to be frantic as I tried to see all the vendors I wanted to see.   Quickly this made it apparent that I hadn’t left enough time between the presentation sessions.   I ended up only managing to see 4 out of the 5 sessions I planned to see and in 3 cases this involved being stood at the back of the room.   That said, they were definitely worthwhile.   I am a bit annoyed however that I missed @ictevangelist Mark Anderson’s presentation which happened on the following day, on Friday.

I particularly enjoyed the session from Andy Carpenter and Dave Strudwick from the Plymouth School of Creative Arts.   It was great seeing the various videos of their students and the enthusiasm which they had built through engaging and exciting projects.    I very much liked how they had achieved an environment where students were able to arrive at lessons and get started in learning immediately without having to wait to be told what to do by their teacher.  I think this is something we all need to strive for in developing our students as independent learners.

Having returned home and reviewing twitter tonight I note that #TMBETT is currently going on.   This sounds like it is worth attending and having reviewed my blog from a year ago I note I said roughly the same thing then.   I wonder whether it will be 3rd time lucky and 2018 will see me staying on for Teachmeet BETT.

Overall I found BETT to be a useful and worthwhile experience this year.   The extra time I allowed myself and the initial planning helped.     Next year I think I may even consider going for two days rather than one and I will definitely be adding in #TMBETT to my itinerary.    But that’s next year so for now all that remains is to say goodbye to #BETT2017.


Habits, and fitness

trainersThroughout last year as I reviewed each month I repeatedly identified health and fitness as an area which I needed to work on however also an area which does not come naturally to me.   As such my initial focus was on finding a simple way to introduce some physical activity to my day.    The approach I ended up settling with was to park across the school campus every morning meaning that I had to walk to get to my desk.    The walk isn’t particularly arduous, being around a 5 to 10 minute walk, uphill on the way in, in the morning and downhill at the end of the day.    This idea worked for me for a few months however when the cold weather set in I am afraid I dropped the idea and returned to using the main cark park which is a significantly closer.

My resolution for 2017 has been to revisit the physical and health aspects of my life however this time I didn’t want to just be content with a short walk twice a day.    As such I restarted parking across campus however I also set myself a daily step target.   My plan was to increase this target and hopefully move to jogging possibly.

The above worked quite well for the first week, with me hitting my target every day however the second and third week brought with them an issue.   It became clear that on some days I would meet my step target however on others I would reach home at the end of the day still having failed to meet the target, despite the walk across campus.     At the end of the day the prospect of going out for a walk, especially in the currently cold weather, was not particularly appealing.   If I wasn’t even hitting my initial target how could I hope to increase it over time?

I have been reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and he described situations where people’s habits included a plan for how they would deal with difficulties.   E.g. how would a smoker deal with that stressful moment which leads to them craving a cigarette.   I needed to identify a habit I could use to help me meet my step target.   Ideally a habit that was easy to start at the end of the day after a full day at work, and a habit which didn’t involve having to go out in the cold.

The solution I arrived at was to make use of the stairs in the house, to climb them, up and down, to reach my step target.  This represents a reasonable physical activity similar to that of walking uphill, yet is easy for me to get started and carry on until I met my target.   It is now my new habit.

I wonder what other activities, which are affected by motivation, might be helped by identifying a habit and plan ahead of those difficult moments.   I also wonder about how developing habits, aimed at dealing stressful and/or difficult situations, might help students.



Why do I blog?

keyboardI have found myself asking this question lately.    During my reflections at the end of 2016 I considered the fact that I had written almost a blog entry at least once per week throughout the year as well as on every day in February.     At times I had found identifying a subject difficult and at other times I had found identifying time to actually write something difficult.    I also had periods during which my motivation towards blogging was not at it highest, yet still I persisted and tried to get something written down and shared.

Recently I have finished reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown which has got me thinking about which tasks and activities I undertaken which are essential and which are not.   This has got me thinking about the effort I put into blogging.    Is blogged essential to me?      In trying to answer this it has got me thinking about my reasons for blogging.

Thinking about it there are a number of reasons which I blog.    One relates to memory.   My reading over the last year has highlighted the limitations of memory.    We often believe that our memory represents an accurate, video like, record of previous events however this is far from the truth.   As such blogging, writing down my thoughts, feelings and the details of specific events, helps in creating a more accurate record of events which I can review at some point in the future.    As such my blog represents a way to help me check that memories I hold actually represent the events I believe they relate to.

Blogging is also a way to offload.    The act of getting things down in a blog article forces me to order my thoughts.    It forces me to question my perspective.     I have found on a number of occasions that the act of blogging has resulted in my re-examining my perspective.

Writing a blog is an act of contribution to the education domain which exists online.    I have often found this domain to be very useful, finding ideas, perspectives and resources which I have either been able to use, or which have helped in shaping my thinking.    I could just have remained a consumer of resources and ideas however if we all did this then the educational domain would be lesser for it, as there would be far fewer contributors.    As such my blog is just one part of my attempt to pay back the online education domain which has helped me so much.   I admit there may be no-one or few people that ever read that which I have written, however if there is even 1 person who has found my musings to be useful, then at least in part I have repaid the help I have received from educators online.

Having given it some thought, maybe blogging isn’t top of my essentials list however I do think it is important.    I think the key here is maybe that my essentials list may focus too much on the here and now, however blogging may prove to have been a productive activity only when I find myself reviewing my thoughts some years from now.

As it stands, I will try to continue to find the time to blog, so here’s to many more posts throughout 2017.

Does anyone understand the T&C’s?

legalbooksThe Children’s Commissioner for England has released a report which identifies the fact that most students don’t understand the terms and conditions of the internet services they sign up for and use but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The report as referenced in an article published by ITV identifies that students find terms and conditions of social media sites “impenetrable”.     Having myself looked at some site terms and conditions I find this far from surprising.   The terms and conditions are largely written from a legal perspective to cover the provider against litigation and therefore tend to be quite long in length, quite complex in language and also written for those with a legal background or approaching from a legal perspective as opposed to a lay person never mind a child.   The terms and conditions are written for their perceived user, being a lawyer hoping to sue or seek damages or a lawyer defending against such a suit.     They are not designed to be informative to the end user of the service in relation to informing them as to their rights and responsibilities, unless the end user has hired a lawyer and is pursuing a suit.

An article on the ISC website written by Caroline Dunn, a deputy head teacher, hits the nail on the head in stating that adults “do not necessarily have a greater understanding of emerging technologies” than the children referenced in the commissioner’s report.   The Children’s commissioner had focused on the fact that terms and conditions were not written with children in mind, yet children were using the services to which these terms relate.  For me, and for Mrs Dunn, the focus was too narrow as in reality the majority of adults are no better able to understand these terms and conditions.  If we consider that adults model behaviour which students will follow, it is concerning that adults often accept terms without reading them, plus also are unable to understand them even should they choose to read them.    I must include myself in the above.

The issue being discussed here is not related to the education of children to use the internet safely.     I do however acknowledge that for children this is even more important in relation to safeguarding.  It is regarding the need for any user, adult or child, to understand their rights and responsibilities with regards using a service.   Clearly the terms do not meet this need as they are aimed at those of a legal background.   The BBC reported on a government select committee back in 2014 identifying that terms where often too long and complex however the report from the Children’s commissioner seems to suggest that little or no progress has been made since then.    I believe this is due to the fact that services will always need to have some legal protection, in the form of terms and conditions, to protect them where someone seeks legal recourse against a service.

It also worries me the focus on a perceived issue in relation to children when in fact that issue is bigger in scale.   The issue includes adults as well who are no better at understanding a services terms.    We see a similar tendency in relation to online privacy and safety, with a focus on the dangers to children when in fact the issue is much bigger and impacts on adults as well.   It could be that the danger to children is perceived as larger hence the focus on children, however equally it could just be sensational reporting.    Also how can we address the dangers associated with internet use by children, if the adults, their parents, who are the ones present at home when children do the majority of their internet surfing don’t truly understand the technology or the terms and conditions.

In relation to the terms and conditions issue I wonder whether the answer is as simple as a rights and responsibilities statement for each service in addition to their legal terms and conditions.   This would be written in understandable language, accessible to the average person including children.   In relation to the wider issues with regards understanding the implications of using a particular service I don’t have an answer, as clearly there is a requirement either to change the internet, good luck with that, or to educate or train internet and service users in general, which is ambitious to say the least.    We continue to learn the good and bad of the internet through using it!



Social Media told to simplify terms and conditions (Nov 2014),

Children ‘left to fend for themselves’ against bullying and grooming online (Jan 2017),

The internet is not designed for children… or adults! (Jan 2017),