in Technology

Reflections on BETT 2008

Further to my previous posts this week, I’ve been at BETT 2008 this week. I don’t like it on other edublogs when people endlessly bang on about conferences/events I haven’t been able to attend, so this will be my last post on it – I promise! :-)


First off, for those who attended the seminar I did with Futurelab on Saturday, below is embedded my part of the presentation. It’s all very visual, but I’ll flesh out what I said below:

After Dan Sutch looked at some of the overall barriers/resistances to change he’s found through his research under the Teachers as Innovators umbrella, it was my turn. It’s easiest for the purposes of this blog post to go through each slide – although in reality I hope it was a bit smoother than that… ;-)

Perceived barriers – There are some innovations which never get off the ground not because of actual barriers but because there is a perception that things cannot/will never change. The best way to find out if something is a barrier is to attempt to cross it!

Actual barriers – Nevertheless, schools and educational institutions in general do have very real barriers (or, as Dan pointed out, resistances) to innovation. I gave the example of telling pupils they could take a photo using their mobile phones at the end of the lesson, instead of writing down their homework. I was told in no uncertain terms by a senior member of staff that this undermined the school ‘no mobile phones in school’ policy.

Mixed signals – But the above is a perfect example of mixed signals. Pupils in my school do bring their mobile phones, MP3 players, etc. into school. Parents want them to in order to be able to contact them about after-school arrangements, and some teachers (like me) want them in lessons to enhance learning. As far as I see it, the opponents in most schools are the governors acting on behalf of what they think parents want. Working against the resistance/barrier can help clarify the issue. :-)

The dividing line – There are sometimes, however, dividing lines which one must not cross. The decision not to allow a particular innovation may have a very good basis which a teacher hasn’t realised. In that case, the individual must be respectful of the wishes of the governors and local authority. Annoying people and ‘putting their backs up’ doesn’t get anyone anywhere!

Possibilities – My current focus is on the potential of mobile technologies, those which students already own, in order to enhance learning. This includes revision slideshows, geotagging, simple games, viewing video and audio files (via Bluetooth) with mobile phones, and videos and podcasts on devices such as the iPod. There are many possibilities with using such devices: filming experiments in Science, for instance.

Anachronisms – If we don’t embrace new technologies we are left with an anachronistic education system. To a very great degree, we’ve already got this. What are classed as ‘the latest ideas’ (which are probably themselves a couple of years old) are shoe-horned into an outdated system. What we need are new pedagogies, not dictated by technology, but which makes use its possibilities.

Technology = cheap – There are always going to be objections that implementing technological solutions is an expensive business. Not the case! Why don’t we use what students have already got? OK, so there’s one pupil who hasn’t got a mobile phone or can’t afford the way it’s being used. Can’t the school afford to subsidise that? And what about the vast sums of money (not to even go into the forests of trees being chopped down) for photocopying? (REFERENCE)

Prohibition – That’s not to say, however, that using technology is always the best or most productive system. Mobile phones shouldn’t be allowed in exams (as we currently have them), for example. We do need a debate as to when and where they should be used, though. This will probably vary school-to-school, area-to-area and country-to-country.

Threat – The reason technology isn’t being adopted on a massive scale, the reason why some view it as a waste of money in education, is because we haven’t got the pedagogy behind it correct yet. But, perversely, we can’t develop that pedagogy until we use the tools. Educators need to come together formally and informally to share best practice and built up, case-by-case, examples of best practice.

Creativity – So let a thousand flowers bloom! Some projects and activities will crash and burn. We shouldn’t be afraid of things going pear-shaped or failing. We are (or should be) preparing pupils for life in the real world, after all! :D

Enabled – I’m optimistic about the future. There’s some great projects that I’ve heard about, some fantastic networks I’m part of, and technology is already making a massive impact on the learning lives of many pupils. We do, however, need to develop pedagogies and keep up-to-date (as much as possible) as what technology can offer.

Connectivity – At the end of the day, it’s all about making connections. One of the best things teachers can do is become part of a community which supports them in their use of technology. Behold the power that is Twitter! Ewan McIntosh used it in his session at BETT and got around 10 answers to a question inside a minute. Now that’s powerful…

That concluded my part of the presentation. Lots of questions were asked, the audience looked engaged and enthused, and the illustrator I had appointed (Baddiel & Skinner-style) to record my babbling recapped things nicely! :p

Finally, after being distinctly underwhelmed by the ‘big-hitters’ on Friday at BETT (apart from, to be honest, Microsoft’s PopFly), I discovered some little gems:

I’m going to leave it there. If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, well done! If you were at BETT, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Equally, if you weren’t and you’ve any questions/thoughts/feedback, fire away! :D

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  1. Hi – thanks for your talk Doug – it was refreshing to see a powerpoint(?) presentation with so little textual clutter. It was a shame there was not more time to discuss/unpack what you and Dan had to say afterwards which only reinforced my experience that so much ‘new’ educational technology tends to replicate the trad ‘chalk & talk’ model – still the debate can continue in the blogosphere…

  2. Thank you for putting your notes up – wasn’t there so good to be able to ‘catch up’.
    Very balanced and at the same time challenging thoughts. Particularly like the bit about it being OK for things to go pear shaped – it’s scary, but you don’t learn if things always go swimmingly.

    • @Sinclair: I did indeed and I really liked it. Seriously considering purchasing one and just walking into my Head’s office with one! I used the one running Linux and it was very responsive. Keyboard a slightly small (as you’d expect) but you can pretty much touch-type after a couple of minutes of getting used to it. Screen seemed bright enough for me! :-)

      @Peter: Glad you enjoyed the presentation. Of course, at the end of the day (as you point out) it’s merely a conversation starter, a stimulus to debate. In the 10 minutes I had I couldn’t hope to do anything more!

      @Lisa: I manage to cock things up pretty much every lesson! I think if your students don’t see you as someone who’s willing to experiment and take risks with their own learning, lesson planning, etc. then they never will. And that’s where their real learning takes place… :p

  3. Hi Doug – great to meet you at the Teachmeet – I only just caught the tail end of this session so like Lisa am grateful that you posted your notes.

    It’s sad that a fear of failure/making mistakes is as great a barrier for some teachers as it is to some students… – as if any of us is perfect?!

    I loved the RM Asus (which I mis-heard as a (Dr) Seuss on the Friday – oops). Will be trying to persuade Head to invest in a class set – the advantages for our tiny school and VERY mixed year classes are the inbuilt ready-to-go features including the webcam and it’s robustness.

    A lot of the Primary Languages software I was looking out for was – well disappointing. Lots of cartoon characters/clipart which were too childish and understimate the sophistication of yr 6 – and far too much emphasis on glorified word-level activities and still no-one seems to have really read the Framework up to yr 6. In fact one saleswoman even happily told me their new scheme covered ‘all 8 QCA units’ (there are 23!) I had hoped for something to help make the ‘partnership/contact with a foreign school’ requirement a little easier and less time-consuming for the average classteacher and non-languages specialist.

    Teachmeet and the teacher/student lead presentations were very inspiring. And the free bags from TES and Bitesize will help now our village is plastic-bag-free…

  4. Hey Doug

    I was at BETT on Thursday, and like you was not overwhelmed. Did you come across the Hyperwords stand on the upper floor – great little add-on for Firefox http://www.hyperwords.net/ allows any piece of text to be kind of hyperlinked to a wide range of online resources – kinda tricky to explain but worth checking out. Enjoyed reading your presentation.

    Dan

  5. Hi Dan,

    It’s a shame you couldn;t have joined us for TeachMet08 on the Friday – it was great! Thanks for the heads-up on Hyperwords – going to install it now! :D

  6. Doug,

    Good job at TeachMeet.
    Did you get a chance to try the Asus/RM minibook? What was it like? (e.g. Is the screen bright enough? Is it responsive?)

    Ta,
    Sinclair.

  7. Jo, I didn’t realise you were there – you should have come to say hello and ask me hard questions at the end! ;-)

    It was good to meet you too. Keep up the good work with that Ning!