G-suite, MS or Apple: Consistency or Variety?

office365At my school we have recently been working towards the implementation and roll out of Office 365 across the school and in doing so it has raised some interesting questions in relation to the various platforms and solutions which are available for use in the classroom.

Take for example this post, “Battle of the classrooms” which focuses on the Google, Apple and Microsoft Classroom solutions.    Each does something different although there are also similarities with quite clear similarities existing between Google and Microsoft’s offering.

Teachers may have a preference for one or other based on their previous experience or skills.   As such it seems sensible to allow them to make use of this experience and their associated skills in their teaching.    Some teachers may be adventurous, innovative and striving to try new things and therefore may identify new solutions and apps outside of the more common ones, then wanting to make use of these in their lessons.     The above is critical in terms of seeking innovative practice and learning experiences as it taps into teacher motivation, existing experience and skills.   This works from a micro, individual teacher and lesson viewpoint.

Taking the macro viewpoint however the above is problematic.    The students, who we are here to serve, experience the lessons from a number of different teachers and subjects during the week as they move around the school following their timetable.   They therefore expect to experience consistency as they move from lesson to lesson.   Thinking about it the education system is awash with requests for consistency including standardized testing and inspections.   The idea of different teachers using different technology solutions in their lessons seems to be at odds with this need for consistency.    Should individual teachers all be using differing platforms this could lead to confusion among students and could negatively impact on learning.

Compromise seems to be the only solution.   To adopt a core set of apps such as solutions for sharing revision content, which are consistently used by teachers across the school, while allowing teachers to experiment with different apps within their teaching.     Considering the compromise as a point on a continuum between a totally standardized environment, where a strict set of apps are allowed, and an environment where anything goes and any app can be used, I think I lean to the right of centre, towards encouraging and allowing flexibility in trying new apps.

Relecting on the above I realise that my starting point was that of the teacher and teaching.   I wonder if my end point may have been different if I had started by looking at the student side of things.   I will however leave that for a future post.

For now my belief in relation to edTech use continues to be in the need for flexibility and innovation albeit with some aspects of consistency if that contradiction is even possible?


A solution to phone addiction?

phoneI have been thinking a little bit further with regards societies addiction to our mobile devices and in particular mobile phones, a subject I only recently posted on (read my earlier post here).   My thoughts were initially focused on my need to address this issue as an individual.   I have two main mobile devices in a mobile phone and a tablet device with the tablet device being equipped with 4G.    The issue at hand was the fact that my evenings and weekends are often interspersed with the stereo chirps from my devices as tweets and other social media contributions are received.   Upon hearing the chirps I am quite often drawn to pick up my tablet in particular to check what exciting new information has been shared.   The sense of anticipation of exciting information draws me to my device however the repeated disappointment upon reading the information appears insufficient in convincing me of the real nature of the information a chirp is likely to signal.   Equipped with the knowledge of this addiction towards checking my mobile devices I sought to change my own practice and quickly found the solution in “do not disturb” mode on my android devices with exceptions setup to allow for phone calls and alarms.   This now means I check my device when I want to as opposed to when notifications draw me to my devices.  I am more in control.

It was at this point that I again gave thought to society as a whole as clearly this solution might work for others, however most people are likely to leave their devices with default settings.    In Thaler and Sunstein’s (2008) book, Nudge, reference is made to the tendency for people to adopt the default state even when other options may be better.    They suggest that we can help people make a better choice, we can nudge them, by changing the default option.    With this in mind I wonder what the impact would be if Android and Apple phones all came with “do not disturb” or similar enabled for the hours from 10pm to 6am or a similar time period as a default.    Would this nudge people towards being less addicted to their devices?    Users could always disable this feature if they want, as they can enable it currently however the default setting would no longer result in a chirp or other audible signal to draw us to our devices at all hours of the night.

I wonder if Google or Apple would be willing to consider this minor change in the interests of society, at least as a pilot study?



Thaler and C. Sunstein, 2008, Yale University Press.

Phone addiction.

phoneOver the last year or so I have became more and more aware of as issue in relation to new reports and articles focusing on issues which schools need to address.  The issue in question is the narrow framing of issues as being education or youth related issues.   This implies that the issue is either confined to schools or confined to the young, when in fact the issue in hand is often observable in wider society.

Another recent example came from The Times (Read the full article here) towards the end of January which reported that one third of children check their phone every few minutes.   This seems to suggest a youth related issue and begs the question: what can we do to address children’s use of smartphones?

An article from the BBC from September 2016 (Read the full article here), some 4 months early, suggests that one third of adults admit to having arguments with their partners due to overuse of smart phones.    Considering the two reports it would appear that they both reported the same issue, perceived over use of smart phones, but focussed on two different age ranges.    Taken together the two reports suggest the issue is prevalent across all ages and therefore could be considered an issue of current society at large.  The question now at hand is therefore how can we address the issue of smartphone use within our current society?

Sat writing this as my wife flicks through the TV and on-demand programme lists I can’t help but think that this relates to the always on and on-demand nature of communications.    I no longer have to sit down at a particular time on a particular date to watch a TV programme.  I can watch it as and when I want.   I no longer have to wait until after 6pm to contact friends, waiting for them to finish work and arrive home.   I can now just send them a Facebook message or Whatsapp message at any time of day, which they can access and reply to independent of if they are working, travelling, etc.    Having lived outside of the UK for a period this technology allows me to contact my friends and ex-colleagues who now lives all over the world in different time zones.    So their messages may be sent in mid-afternoon but arrive with me in the early hours.

I think the hyper connectedness of current society is inevitable given the technology and the opportunities it has opened up.  The key is in making all people, including children, mindful of it.   And on that note I will put my laptop down and join my wife in the social activity of watching Saturday evening TV.



4 Years of blogging. How time flies!

4thIt was 4 years ago today that I sat one evening in my villa in Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates, and wrote my first blog piece.   It seems like only yesterday!    My initial period of blogging was a little sporadic with some months containing 2 or 3 posts while other months contained nothing.   It has only been in the last year or so that I have tried to reach some regularity in my rate of posting with an aim of writing something at least on a weekly basis.

In the four years a lot has changed.   Four years ago I was an educational consultant working in UAE whereas now I am back in the UK in the independent school sector.    Four years ago I was in my thirties and I am now in my forties.    Four years ago my son was at the start of his school life however now he is towards the end of his primary education.    Four years ago I was relatively negative about the use of Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) and iPads whereas now I am very positive about iPads although my dislike of IWBs remains.   Four years ago I had a degree and a postgraduate certificate, now I have a Masters along with various other EdTech related statuses.   So in four years, more experience, four years older, a different country, a different educational sector and a different context.     Its amazing what can change over four years!

Looking back I have found my blog to be a useful window into my thoughts over the last four years.   It has been interesting the number of times upon re-reading an entry I have found my memory of events to have been challenged.    Being able to reflect and compare has been very useful indeed.

The actual act of writing a blog piece is useful in itself in that it forces you to order and organise your thoughts before, or as, you type them out.   The process alone has made me reconsider my point of view on at least a few occasions.

As an avid consumer of online educational content through twitter, Pinterest and the blogs of variety of different educationalists I am always conscious of the one-way nature of consumption.    Posting a regular blog allows me to contribute back to the online discussions even if no-one reads my posts, at least I am doing what is within my power and influence to put something back in.  At least I am putting myself out there.

Blogging allows me to offload thoughts and ideas onto the screen.  The human mind has a limited capacity for thinking, ideas, etc. and therefore the act of putting some ideas into a blog releases some capacity which can then be deployed on other things.   It’s a little bit of a mindfulness exercise.     Now I am no neuro-scientist so I can’t prove the above to be true but it feels right and some of my reading over the years has suggested the limited capacity of the mind to be true.

I will however be honest and although the majority of the reason for blogging is for me personally I still do occasionally check the statistics to see if people have been reading my posts.    I still get a little bit excited by the occasional reader comment which shows me that my musings are at least of interest to at least one person.     Or by the retweet or like on twitter relating to a post I have written.    I admit this is a little shallow however I am a human after all.  If it wasn’t about others reading then this blog would be document which only I could read.  I hope as a public sharing it is more useful.

So its now been four years that I have had this site running.    Here’s to the year ahead, and getting to five!

Image “Fourth Four Indicates Happy Birthday And 4” by Stuart Miles from http://www.FreeDigitalPhotos.Net 

Data, data and more data

waitingroomThis morning it was the turn of the NHS to be the focus of the morning TV discussion about how things aren’t going well.    I suppose I should be partially thankful as this takes the spotlight off education at least for a short while.    That said it also once again shows the superficial use of data.

This mornings TV took some time, along with fancy graphics, to outline how the NHS waiting times had increased.   The specific figure they presented being the percentage of patients at A&E who were seen within 4 hours.   This seems like a reasonable statistic to use from the perspective of a patient as it suggests the likelihood that should I need to turn up at A&E I would be seen in 4 hours of less.   I suspect the fact that it is so potential meaningful for prospective patients, the average TV viewer, is why they picked this statistic over others.

The issue with this is what it doesn’t tell us the additional context which may be important in interpreting the figures.    Over the period under consideration did the number of patients attending A&E remain static or did they in fact increase which may be a contributing factor to increased waiting times?     A briefing report by Carl Baker from November 2016 suggested that in 2016 the number of A&E patients at major A&E departments increased 6.3% over attendance levels in 2015.   Were there any changes in the demographics of patients attending A&E as an increase in elderly people attending may mean that patients are less likely to be able to be quickly seen and discharged, again contributing to increased waiting times.    What about the staffing levels of A&E over the period?   Did this change as a reduction in staffing may account for increased waiting times?   Also the figures look specifically at average data for the whole of England; were there any regional variations?   Personally I live in the South West and feel that it is difficult to access a doctor which may mean that I would attend A&E on occasions where someone with more ready access to a GP would not.    Are there also differences between A&Es serving urban and rural areas?   Are there differences between A&Es serving large versus those serving smaller populations or population densities?

In the current performance indicator and accountability led environment we often focus on specific figures such the percentage of patients seen in 4 hours or the number of pupils achieving A*-C or Progress 8, PISA, EMSA, TIMMS, PIPS or other measures.    Each of these pieces of data is informative and tells us something however equally there are a lot of things that it doesn’t tell us.    We need to ask what doesn’t this data tell us and seek data to add context.

Only with context is data useful.

Accident and Emergency Statistics: Demand, Performance and Pressure, C Baker (2016), House of Commons Briefing Library (6964)


Body Cameras in Schools

cctvI found this mornings discussion on BBC with regards the use of body cameras by teachers in 2 pilot schools an unexpected turn of events in the use of technology in schools.    This story was also reported in The Guardian

Within the pilot teachers within the schools concerned will apparently make use of the cameras when there is a “perceived threat”.   I find this statement interesting when it is reported that the purpose of the cameras is related to teachers who are “fed up with low-level background disorder”.   I am not sure how low level behaviour issues are likely to amount to a perceived threat?

I am also thinking back to my own teaching career and quite often the incidents I might have wanted to capture on video as evidence are those which came unexpectedly.   I can’t really see it working where the teacher has to ask the pupils to “stop for a minute while I turn my camera on”.

I can understand why body camera might work for the police and other services where the role involves a significant amount of control and potential conflict however this is not something I would expect of our classrooms.   Within our classrooms our focus is on teaching and learning which is a social endeavour and therefore conflict should not be a regular expectation although I will acknowledge that as with any interactions between people with different views, etc. the occasional conflict is always possible.

I also wonder about what the inclusion of body cameras in schools might come to symbolize.   For some it might be seen as a symbol for safety and security however for others, and I would speculate for the majority within schools, it would be seen to indicate a lack of trust, openness and care.    Teachers have to carry body cameras to capture evidence of misbehaviour so by extension this means that teachers expect misbehaviour and teachers don’t trust students to behave correctly.   What impact would a culture a mistrust have on a school and is it worth the cost when weighed against the limited benefits of body cameras which have to be turned on to record specific incidents.

My overall feeling on this is not positive however I welcome any pilot as a way to test a potential new approach.   I do hope that the pilot includes a control group of schools and that the review of its impact is done using an appropriately scientific approach.    If I was looking to use technology I would be more positive towards CCTV in classrooms with a clear statement as to what the footage can be used for.   The reason my preference is towards this is that it captures what all, including teachers and other staff are doing, plus it serves as an excellent tool for teachers to review their lessons, work in peer groups, etc. and therefore serves as an excellent CPD tool.    CCTV can therefore be seen as something with a focus on improvement and working for the good whereas body cameras are purely for evidence collection and as a deterrent, a force for what I would consider the bad.





Reflections on January 2017

newYearsResolutionI cant believe it is February already.   Christmas now feels but a distant memory.   As such I feel it is a good time to reflect on the first month and on my progress against the resolutions I set myself.


I would say this in a difficult one to measure especially given the speed with which the last month have passed.   I have been journaling my thoughts over most of the last month however my comments shed little light on my feelings and happiness.   Clearly it may be beneficial to at least allocate some journal space to a brief comment on feelings however for now I think this remains an area to work on.    All being equal though, time has flown by over the last month and they do say time flies when you are having fun!


My engagement in twitter has been less in the recent month than previously although my blogging has remained largely static.    Overall I feel my contributions as a connected educator continue to be at a level which I am happy with.   The one thing that is different is that, so far, I have not felt the need to force myself to create content and to contribute.    The various posts so far have came relatively easily and long may that continue.


I passed my CISA exam which is good.   At the moment I haven’t yet decided what my next personal challenge is however I have been considering BCS Chartered IT Professional or similar status.   I have also looked at Apples Distinguished Educator status.    As such little has happened on this item however once I decide on my chosen challenge the work will begin.


Am not really sure I have experimented much so far although I did do some work on presenting achievement data as well as some work on the analysis of IT support metrics.


Am now on my third book in The Herd.   As such am progressing very well against my plan to read 1 book per month.   The one thing I do need to watch is my tendency to select books based on ones which I have already read.   As such this may result in a narrowing of the subject matter I am reading.   I need to ensure as well as following a pathway of books related to a given topic, I also read across a varied number of different topics.      I will be giving this some careful consideration as I order my next set of books ready for reading.


I managed to meet my step target on 20 out of the 31 days of January.    Now of the days which I failed to meet the target, some were at the start of the month before I got started and some were during a recent period of illness.    I have restarted walking across campus and I have also found a way of ensuring I hit my target where I arrive home at the end of the day, still short of the mark.   Now the step target of 4500 steps isn’t great, however I next will up it to 5000, before increasing it regularly assuming I manage to hit the previous target for at least a full 7 days.     I also note that my weight has slightly fallen which seems to suggest a slightly healthier me.    January has only been the start, so now I need to build on this.


January has seen a few family trips to the cinema however it has also seen a period of illness throughout the family.    I would say this is still an area which needs to given consideration and some continued effort.

Overall January has been largely a good month.   My hope is that this marks just the beginning of 2017, and that I can build on it throughout the year, allowing me to better address the various pledges which I have made.