You are Reading this on Some Kind of Device
by Tom Martin
The world of technology is moving so fast that even with the best will (and all the time and money) in the world, it’s difficult to keep up.
It would seem that right now it’s “all about the iPad” and undoubtedly the use of tablets in the classroom is steadily increasing. An article in TES Pro (12th October 2012, p4-7) reports that in the US, tablets are outpacing traditional PC’s in sales to schools for the first time ever.
But take heed colleagues, before taking the plunge and throwing away all your school laptops (if you have not done so already!), tablets have so far proved very useful in enhancing certain aspects of teaching and learning, but they are not without their limitations. For example, they are not particularly good for pupils to do note taking. The same article goes on to report that the teachers at one school in the UK are actually regretting signing up to a scheme that allowed their “image conscious” head to replace the school laptops with iPad 2’s. This is mainly due to the iPad’s lack of familiar software such as an office suite. The article is summarised with a very poignant thought – “the iPad alone is not enough to transform a school – it can only be a worthwhile tool if it used in conjunction with good teaching practices.”
Before we (the education community) rush into tackling yet another technology that’s not fully understood and forget about what went before it, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on the whole host of other learning technologies which “Web 2.0” brought with it since its inception in the early 2000’s. When we scratch the surface and talk to teachers regarding their use of ICT in the class, it would appear that many haven’t had the opportunity to fully utilise the wealth of (mainly free) technologies that were already at their fingertips and yet now we are being told it’s time to move onto something else. Who can blame them? No one is born as an IT expert. It takes time to develop IT literacy and even more time to keep it current and there isn’t a great deal of free time available on the average teachers’ timetable. In addition, other than word of mouth or by reading articles, how else do you find something that really works within the minefield that is the internet?
Here at the Science Learning Centre South East based at the University of Southampton, we have been helping a group of local schools “navigate” their way through some of the most effective learning technologies available. Thanks to CPD (Continuing Professional Development) that was partially funded by a successful Enthuse Cluster Award bid, the Centre was able to help assist with an exciting “Flip(ped) Learning” project that was already underway. Over 20 teachers from a cluster of five different schools from the local area came to the Centre to attend two twilight sessions on “Technology for Learning”, that would enable them to facilitate more independent learning outside of the classroom time and better use of class time to address misconceptions.
The network of Science Learning Centres has always prided itself on leading the way and sharing best practice in advances with teaching and learning. Drawing on a wealth of expertise from its experienced consultants, we are able to make accurate recommendations of technologies that may work for these particular schools. It’s certainly not a case of “one size fits all” when it comes to the application of such tech.
Our first session aimed to provide a summary of the “Best of the Best” in learning technologies, some of which were familiar to the teachers (or they had at least heard of) but there were many more that were not. As touched on above, it became even clearer to see why. In writing this very blog post and trying to summarise some of the technologies we dealt with, I got distracted, thinking again about “what is the next big thing and how might we use it in education” and (in true scientific-pondering fashion) started thinking to myself, “I wonder how many websites there are in the world?” Where better to find the answer than at http://howmanyarethere.net/how-many-websites-are-there-on-the-internet/. Apparently, there are a reported 644,275,754 active websites (source: Netcraft, March 2012) and this number is growing exponentially. I, as one co-deliverer of the twilight workshops and someone that is passionate about technology enhanced learning feels the internet is now “just too big” – there is too much out there. Finding “It” (whatever It may be) has become ever more difficult and it needs someone (or something) to filter out the gems and share these somehow.
These twilight sessions go some way towards this. I believe teachers value the opportunity to spend time away from school and have someone show them something new, but crucially have time to explore and create. This was confirmed by feedback from the teachers in their course evaluations. The second twilight was just that. An opportunity for the teachers to further explore the technologies they wanted to take forward from the first session. There was the use of “flip cameras” to capture lessons (which are then uploaded to various video channels), Photo Story (and similar) that can be used to explain sequential information and various screen-capture software to produce content that can be accessed by students outside the constraints of the classroom walls. There was also a handful of relevant tablet apps introduced and evaluated for good measure! All technologies were directly relevant and chosen because they could potentially enhance the “flip project”.
John Coad, co-deliverer of the twilight sessions said:
“It’s really rewarding to be able to work with these schools and contribute to their exciting project. In the second twilight, the teachers made some really useful and creative learning resources in not much time at all. We planted a seed and they ran with it. We look forward to seeing more of the outcomes for their students when we follow up”.
The Centre will be following up on the schools progress in a few months’ time to see how they are getting on and offer further assistance should they require it.
In the meantime here’s to android 4.3 aka “Creamy Mascarpone Cheesecake” (don’t quote me on this or leak it out – I made it up but sounds feasible!) iPad 4 (or is it 4Smini second edition or 5?!) and web 3.0.
This article was written on a laptop computer. You are reading this article on some kind of device!
If you would like to find out more, “Technology for Learning” is available as a scheduled course running at various times throughout the year or by request for your school or cluster by most of the regional Science Learning Centres. See the Science Learning Centre website or contact your regional centre for more details.
The National Science Learning Centre in York is also running two technology related residential courses which may also be of interest:
Filed under: continuing professional development, Design and Technology, Science teaching Tagged: | continuing professional development, ENTHUSE Cluster Award, Flip Learning, ICT, Ipad, IT literacy, school technology, Science Learning Centres, Tablets, technology, Technology for learning, twilight session, Web 2.0