Teaching to the text: Textbooks or technology?

I was delighted to be invited to take part in a panel discussion at this year’s Battle of Ideas titled Teaching to the text: Teaching or technology?, which took place earlier today. Speakers were asked to introduce their position for five minutes before opening the discussion. Below are my opening words: 

Good morning. I find myself in a peculiar position. I am speaking in panel about textbooks or technology even though I disagree wholeheartedly with the premise of the discussion – that it has to be textbooks or technology.

What are my lessons like? A personal reflection

As a languages teacher, I’ve always believed that the main purpose of learning a foreign language is, not only to understand, but also to be able to express oneself in that language.

There are various approaches to language learning. The grammar-translation method, derived directly from traditional Latin and Greek teaching, requires students to learn grammatical rules and then apply those rules by translating sentences to and from the target language. In contrast, the communicative language teaching approach emphasises learning to communicate through interaction in the target language, often using relevant or authentic language.

Five revision strategies every student should know

When I was at school I wasn’t a terrible student, but I was terrible at studying. Yes, I was good at cramming my head full of facts and concepts at the very last minute that I was able to recall for tests and exams, but the good grades I often obtained concealed the fact that I wasn’t learning very much at all in this way. Every exam was an uphill struggle and, as soon as it had finished I would forget a considerable amount if not most of what I had learnt.

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.