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"ICT in Education" - 5 new articles

  1. Digital Education: the first edition of the year is now available!
  2. Digital Education: Getting the year started
  3. When BYOT becomes BYOW
  4. Ideas for the computing curriculum: #2 What box?
  5. Ideas for the computing curriculum: #1 Talk to the lamp post
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search ICT in Education
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Digital Education: the first edition of the year is now available!

We’re in the first couple of weeks of the new school year here in England, and the first edition of Digital Education, our free newsletter, is now available! Pardon the exclamation mark, but the fact that it has now been published is a minor miracle. Right at the very last minute, I tried to delete a letter, and Microsoft Word went insane. It reform mated the whole document into just three pages, and hid most of it. I managed to retrieve it though — by selecting it all and then copying and pasting it into a new document. So, given that I almost threw the newsletter, my computer and the cat out of the window in frustration, I think an exclamation mark is more than justified!

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Anyway, it contains some great advice from consultant Andy Bush on getting started with the new Computing curriculum, words of wisdom from me (he says modestly), 36 brilliant links for computer programming, and a stupendous competition.

You can get hold of this wonderful publication by subscribing to the newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/newsletter.

    


Digital Education: Getting the year started

Now that we’ve have had a week or so to get settled in to the new school year, I thought a short edition of the Digital Education newsletter would not come amiss. That will be published tomorrow, and here’s what it will contain:

All the news, by Robert Couse-Baker https://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/

  • Resources for coding:
    • 15 websites
    • 10 programs
    • 11 apps
  • A new series on the ICT in Education blog
  • Articles you may have missed over the summer break
  • What’s coming up in the next edition – we have 4 guest articles covering:
    • the teaching of programming – Lawrence Williams
    • multimedia resources – Theo Keuchel
    • educational research – Steve Wheeler
    • paradigm shift? – Crispin Weston
    • All that, plus news and, I hope, reviews and other good stuff.

And it’s all free! What’s not to like?


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When BYOT becomes BYOW

We’re now in the age of the smartwatch. Motorola launched its version very recently, and the Apple iWatch launches today. Bring Your Own Watch (BYOW) has been with us for ages, but the smartwatch introduces a new challenge to those schools which do not agree with the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) concept.

Not as Smart as it looks! Photo by DVS https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvs/

It will be a while before lots of kids start coming to school wearing these devices, but I am quite sure that there will be a day when they are pretty ubiquitous. I may be wrong, of course: lots of youngsters don’t wear watches these days because they can get the time from their phones. But if their phones are banned in school, a watch seems a fairly good substitute.

If the iWatch looks like a space age device (we don’t know yet), it would be easy to identify and, therefore, confiscate. I’m not sure how a school would differentiate between different pupils’ watches, but if they’re determined enough I am sure they’ll find a way. Motorola’s version, the Moto, on the other hand, looks like an actual watch. Much harder to pick out from a normal watch. It could be done, but think of all the time and effort involved.

Think also of the responsibility of the school: what if the pupil is using the watch as a health device, a means whereby she can monitor her blood pressure. Is a school really prepared to take the risk?

It seems to me that schools need to start thinking now about their policy on smartwatches and any other wearable technology. It also seems to me that going down the road of banning such devices would be a colossal waste of time. The most logical approach in my opinion would be to work with the pupils to produce a Responsible Use policy. I realise that that isn’t a feasible option in every school at the moment, but in the longer term I don’t see any alternative.


 

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Ideas for the computing curriculum: #2 What box?

ideaIn this series I’m going to be making some suggestions, putting out some ideas. These are based on presentations I’ve given. I can think of how these ideas, or their implications, might be applied in the classroom. However, I think it better if I stand back and let you do that part of the work!

One of the most depressing things for me is the degree of conformity I come across. I don’t blame people: we live in such judgemental times that I understand why people would stick to the tried and tested ways of doing things. Even so…

Once, having taken a group of teachers around the Press Association, a member of the group said “Wow, this has been fantastic! The amount of technology here is astonishing. It’s everything I’ve been teaching the kids about.”

“Brilliant!”, I answered. “So how will this have an impact on your teaching?”

“It won’t.”

“It won’t??”

“No. I have to make sure my students get a grade between a C and A*, so I can’t afford to go off the beaten track. I must teach them exactly what the syllabus says.”

Well, that’s a sad state of affairs if you ask me, but there are two things to note:

First, the syllabus the new Computing Curriculum doesn’t exist. There’s a Programme of Study that consists of a few bullet points for each age group, and if you stuck rigidly to that then either you would have completed the course in a month or the kids would have died of boredom before you reached that point. (If that’s your intention, by the way, you will find my book “Go on, bore ‘em: how to make your ICT lessons excruciatingly dull” quite useful.)

Fift Box, by Ken's Oven https://www.flickr.com/photos/35323150@N02/

Second, when I was teaching advanced level Economics I covered all manner of things that were not on the syllabus, and taught them using role play, computer games and debates. Did that disadvantage the students? Quite the opposite: it inspired in them a love of the subject and a desire to learn more. It also helped them to start thinking like economists.

And that, surely, is the point? We need to be getting kids to think like computer scientists and systems analysts, or at least get them to think “computationally”, not merely to get them through a ‘syllabus’.

My starting point is this: people go on about thinking outside the box. I say: “What box?”. Even acknowledging that there might be a box is, in a way, surrendering to the status quo. What if, instead, you started to toy with impossible ideas? For example:

  • Could I teach the whole of the Computing curriculum by taking the students to the park every lesson?
  • Could I teach it by adopting a fully ‘game-based approach?
  • Could I teach it by getting in guest speakers – from completely different disciplines, like historians, poets, artists, writers, scientists?

“OK”, you say. “Terry has finally flipped.” But the point of such questions is to go to the brink, then pull back, and see what you’re left with. For example, you would probably not want to turn your entire course into a game (though I imagine you could, and it would probably work quite well!). There may be ‘political’  reasons not to as much as practical ones. For example, how will you sell the idea to the senior leadership team and to parents?

But you might be able to take a game-based approach for one unit of work a year. Or not as long. Or longer. I once ran a computer game that took just one lesson, but led to tons of discussion. I ran another game that took up one lesson a month, and that also generated lots of great discourse.

Thinking up impossible scenarios is an excellent way of pushing the limits – and still remain within the bounds of the possible.

See also:

Ideas for the computing curriculum: #1 Talk to the lamp post


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Ideas for the computing curriculum: #1 Talk to the lamp post

ideaIn this series I’m going to be making some suggestions, putting out some ideas. These are based on presentations I’ve given. I can think of how these ideas, or their implications, might be applied in the classroom. However, I think it better if I stand back and let you do that part of the work!

There’s a really good chance that in some schools, or in some classes, the computing curriculum will be just as boring as the old ICT curriculum was accused of being. I think the basic starting point for any scheme of work should be a simple proposition: using technology is mostly enjoyable. It can also be exciting. Therefore, learning about technology should be equally enjoyable and exciting. If it isn’t, something is wrong.

An example of technology being enjoyable is the ‘Hello Lamp Post’ project that ran in Bristol in 2013. This took advantage of the fact that every item of street furniture – fire hydrants, bus stops and lamp posts – have a unique identifier. You can test this for yourself if you live in a city that uses something like the Next Bus service. In the picture shown, the number of the bus stop is 55056, so by texting that number to the service provider you receive a text message telling you when the next bus is due.

NEXT BUS

In the Bristol project, people could send a text message to, say, a lamp post and receive a reply – seemingly from the lamppost! Of course, the replies came from a cloud-based service – Twilio, in fact.

Here’s a short video showing the project in action, and you can find out more about the project by visiting the Hello Lamp Post website.

Hello Lamp Post from PAN Studio on Vimeo.

 

 

Then consider the following:

  • How could you use this sort of idea in your lessons?
  • Could you use this project as a basis for theoretical work in the curriculum?
  • Might the project inspire some students to become more interested in computing?

 

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