Technology: an unwelcome distraction or the catalyst for great learning?

At Surbiton High School we have created an environment where teachers and students use digital technology habitually to support teaching and learning. We have achieved this by investing in professional development, connectivity infrastructure and by providing every member of staff and student with a tablet device. And yet ours is not some dystopian environment where technology enslaves us and dictates how we teach and learn, but rather a technology-infused traditional environment, where great teaching and learning – with and without technology – are the ultimate goals.

It’s not about the tablets. It’s about the learning

Earlier this summer I was enormously privileged to be asked by Jay Ashcroft and Charlotte Green to write the foreword to their new book The Tablet Revolution: How to Transform Student Learning with iPad, which you can read below.

Providing pupils with mobile devices is an enormous decision for any school, and it is one that must be considered carefully. If you start from the assumption that providing pupils and staff with shiny slabs of aluminium and glass is all that is required and that everything else will take care of itself afterwards because “the children know how to use them anyway”, then you are in for a shock. Bringing in hundreds of mobile devices and only then worrying about the pillars that will prop up your mobile learning project is a recipe for disaster.

Not all screen time is equal: Some considerations for schools and parents

Human nature is the problem, but human nature is also the solution.

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate

The notion of screen time evokes strong and often negative emotions. Photographs of people, young and old alike, staring into screens instead of talking to each other are almost always followed by dispirited comments about the dysfunctional state of our society.

Parents of young children, including me, worry and often feel enormous guilt when their children spend too long in front of devices instead of running around outside, getting fresh air and climbing trees. And spare a thought for parents of adolescent children. They too feel anxious and concerned about how long their 15 year old spends locked up in her room in front of a screen instead of getting more involved in family life.

Reading overload ‘sparks paper detox for millions of Britons’

This article was originally published on the BBC News website. Though I may have changed the words a little…

Some 59% of those surveyed considered themselves hooked on books, comics, magazines and newspapers, with a third saying they found it difficult to disconnect.

Half said that they spent longer reading than originally intended each day.

The study of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers forms part of Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, which assesses the state of reading in the nation.

One quarter of teenagers said that they had been late for school as a result of reading comics, while six in 10 said that they neglected schoolwork.

Will #Brexit be a good thing for our children?

I didn’t vote. I would have, I just wasn’t entitled to. You see, I’m one of the EU immigrants 52% of the country I’ve lived in and contributed to for 22 years has just voted against. Or at least it feels that way. A few folks, clearly well-meaning, have told me that I shouldn’t worry, that I am the sort of skilled worker that this country is now free to attract (this, apparently, wasn’t possible before). “Don’t worry, you’re one of the good ones”, they tell me.

Overlapping arguments: Why we love to hate technology

Semantics is about committing to a shared understanding of the truth, and the way our thoughts are anchored to things and situations in the world.

Steven Pinker

One of the most common novice misconceptions about learning foreign languages is that words can be translated literally. Beginner students will commonly seek to translate idioms such as it’s raining cats and dogs word by word, causing native speakers of the target language to look up to the sky in horror before realising it’s just a peculiar figure of speech.

Does our ‘edtech’ obsession get in the way of education?

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.

Benjamin Lee Whorf

Education is complex field. In it there are folks who specialise in behaviour management, assessment, professional development… And so we have assessment experts, CPD experts and even government appointed behaviour tsars. Hardly anyone would refer to these folks pejoratively as being obsessed with their chosen field of specialism. Oh, but not educational technology. If your field of expertise happens to be educational technology, I have news for you: you’re not an expert, you are a zealot. Get used to it. If your interests lie in finding out about how digital technology can support teaching and learning, this is not a legitimate pursuit, it is an obsession and so you should find a good psychiatrist.