Hear no evil

February 24, 2015

evilSpanish newspaper El País has a major story today on seven reasons why mobile phones should be switched on and not off in classrooms. The article points out that the days are far behind when teachers lived in awe of the technological abilities their students displayed: we now all live in the digital world and many of today’s teachers were actually born into it.

Nevertheless, as we know, use of technology in classrooms very often starts with “switch off your mobile phones please” rather than the opposite. Very often resources have been spent on technology in classrooms but the next step is to develop the notion of a digital curriculum in more detail and how the teaching profession understands and works with this concept.

It is a slow process. The challenge is not just how to use technology effectively in teaching, rather how to use technology in the best way in order to improve the overall quality of the education being offered.

Original article here:

Ironically, the weekend before El País published a major article on censorship and the internet across the world: are teachers the best censors?


Christmas confusions

December 9, 2014

Do we know it’s Christmas? Do we believe in Santa and the Three Wise Men (if you live in Spain)? Those of us who have worked with technology and education always have our doubts!

Here is my Christmas message to you: two conflicting (or maybe not) thoughts on technology in education.

Firstly a video on why it never really works.

And now an article on why we should stop learning our maths tables given that we all have a calculator on hand.

Allow students Google their exams.

And a very happy Christmas to ye all.

Building bricks

July 2, 2014

holeWhen younger my son went through a phase of wanting to do everything independently, by himself. If you are not in a hurry and trying to get a kid out of the house, it can be entertaining to watch a little boy struggle into his trousers back to front.

Sugata Mitra’s plenary at IATEFL this year continues to generate controversary; indeed, his work in general does as he promotes the idea of students teaching themselves (the famous “Hole-in-the-wall” experiment) and more recently his idea of Self Organising Learning Environments (SOLEs). A search for any of these terms on YouTube or TED will give you an idea of how radical some of his claims may seem, and how persuasive he himself can be!

Some years ago I was involved in organising a TESOL Symposium on Learner Autonomy in the University of Seville. One of the speakers, Leni Dam, spoke about how much teacher work goes into developing learner autonomy! It is not something that happens automatically or even naturally. I am not sure Sugbata Mitra would agree but I think I do.

Michal B. Paradowski has a comprehensive article on the debate in the recent issue of IATEFL Voices. It can be read online and the references at the end also provide excellent follow up, particularly the comments made by Hugh Dellar and Jeremy Harmer.

My son is now autonomous when it comes to dressing. But it took time, and I don’t think he learned all by himself. Parents seem to have some small role in kids development. Teachers probably do as well: even in the future. Sometimes people need to be taught how to brick up that hole in the wall before winter kicks in although, by the same token, I think Pink Floyd had a song about the dangers of bricking everything out.

A one hit wonder

June 9, 2014

Here is a statistic: 3 out of 5 people spend more time with their technology than they do with their spouse. Time to unplug?

Did you know a “device-agnostic” APP is one that will work on most platforms? That will make your life much simpler if you are expecting lots of different students to use it: you don’t have to check what devices they are using and whether they are compatible or not with what you want to use.

Ever wondered what a teacher’s brain might look like?

Have you ten quick ideas for using mobile phones in your classroom?

The answers to all these questions and more are on www.edudemic.com

Great, easy to navegitate site with tons of ideas and advice for teachers. Love it. It’s in my top ten.

Book ‘Em Danno

May 22, 2014

hawaiiHere is a reflection on the Irish education system and the impact of ICT as a disruptive force which can potentially be positive but which teachers can also find challenging and need support in order to fully take advantage of its potential (IRISH TIMES ARTICLE). Nothing new here in one way, but at the same time a different perspective on the same issues we all face.

My kids can zip and zap through technology and outdo me in two seconds when it comes to downloading, resetting, changing preferences etc. At the same time, while quick to click, they have no patience or real skills when it comes to reading, scanning or analyzing what might be useful to click on: they are banned from my computer because otherwise it would be jammed, blocked and probably virus ridden.

When it comes to school, tasks set for homework do not necessarily help … “Find information about ….” with no guidance and no training as to how or where to find the information (apart from presumably googling it), evaluate or summarize it, are false friends in that they encourage kids to expose themselves to technology without any guidance as to how to dress appropriately. Maybe it will come naturally, they will learn it all by themselves, through the process of surfing itself as Sugata Mitra claims (Google or Wikipedia the name 🙂 or try www.hole-in-the-wall.com). Kids learn to read with help and they certainly develop both their reading skills and interest in reading with further encouragement from educators and family: I don’t think technology can be all that different but I am increasingly suspicious that it will be the next generation of educators who will really know how to involve their students with and through technology.

As an avid fan of Hawaii 5.0 my son wants to learn how to surf … real surfing, not virtual. I might just throw him out to sea with a board and see how he fares. Probably works for some but I suspect training and couching will also be useful. I’d hate to see him catch a virus or even go viral without thinking about it first.

Thanks for all the phishing

September 19, 2013

Hi all and welcome back to a new teaching year after the summer. For those of you who may be slightly paranoid about internet security the Economist has an in-dept survey on the issue and an interesting debate about whether or not security agencies should be allowed pervert the flow of information as it were. If you don’t want to read the complete article scroll down to the fun section on Panoramic paranoia where the newspaper gives some tips on being really safe electronically (ie keep your mobile safe from interference by switching it off, taking out the battery and storing it in the fridge when not in use).

This blog is, of course, about technology and teaching but maybe the security issues remain the same. At what point should we shut technology out and store it in the fridge just in case it corrupts our classrooms? My daughter has just started secondary school and has been told that all mobile devices have to be turned off and locked away during school hours. A recent talk by a work-mate encouraged me to get my teenagers to take our their mobile phones and use them creatively in class last night. There is always a back door when it comes to technology. The trick may not be finding it but using it productively, creatively and in a way that stimulates the teaching and learning process. Technology is not an automatic virus. It can be, but in education that probably depends on the teacher.

That has always been the intention of this blog: learning about and using technology in the best pedagogical way possible. I have just re-read the aims of this blog stated in the WHY section and I hope to some extent they have been fulfilled.

Time moves on and technologically things change ever quicker than time does. After nearly 300 posts I think this blog may have reached an end. Three years is a long time in the history of internet. Things have moved on. I may return here or on a new blog when I have found a new angle: at the moment I feel that it is time for an upgrade, and they always take time to de-bug.

Meanwhile thanks for all the phising! Let me leave you with one final clip which does what we try to do every class: put a humanistic layer on intelligence, artificial or not.

In suspension …

June 17, 2013

untitledThat time of year with exams all around. Hope none of you doing them get suspended!

I have been suspended on another front: yes another birthday but to keep you all addicted to the blog I refuse to tell you how old … just keep reading. Have been reflecting, however, on teaching (surprise, surprise). I still remember getting off the school bus and waiting for our first TV aerial on the roof. And that was B/W! My favourite teacher of all time was still allowed to hit us with a drum stick: but he taught me everything I needed to now about Franco. Those were the days.

The technology keeps changing and with it education but I remain a firm believer in the power of the teacher. Recently I have become addicted to massive online courses such as those offered by www.cousera.org but it fascinates me how important the role of the lecturer still is … it may be a video but their personality still wins you over.

Likewise, in our increasingly IT influenced classrooms, us teachers remain the key point of reference. Here is a fine blog post discussing the whole area stating very clearly that we need to put students not stuff first and it will be the teacher who makes that difference.

If the blog is still running this time next year I may confirm my age. Or maybe not. The joys of cyberlife: it never ends, they won’t let you quit.