12 Feb

Ed tech – all or nothing?

Does the Technology in Education have to be such a polarising debate?

Is it really a case of all tech or no tech?

The debate has continued in earnest this week – with Apple’s Tim Cook weighing in with the sound bite ‘Classroom Tech not a Substitute for Teaching‘. This secret teacher  also seems to suggest that once SLT has decided it wifi became ubiquitous along with access as and when the children needed it. Unhelpful headlines and typical of th debate (regardless of the measured context that the schools are working in) It seems that for some there are no half measures.

This type of situation is unhelpful and surely not that realistic? Beyond emails – and updating online spaces (or providing material to update) – what else can we gain from forcing teacher to use technology or arguing that technology will replace teachers.

Fashion and Fad

Of course this isn’t helped by rumour and random news stories. The most recent being that Year 1 will be subject to a PISA style test which will be online. A few years ago a discussed times table test was rumoured to be online only. These ideas are just that, headlines designed as clickbait, however they point to a key problem. Technology in the classroom is seen as divisive. It is seen as a have-all or have-nothing and it is very much subject to the other whims of education debate. Taken into context then it makes no sense to have such an absolute vision. We don’t talk about assessment in such terms, or behaviour policies. Both of these examples are subject to the ideas and beliefs of the school and so should technology use.

Losses and Gains

Let’s face it – the breathless predictions of what teaching can get from technology comes from the providers themselves. Nothing more than free advertising using their user base as a megaphone. Change, of any sort, takes time in huge institutitions such as education and yet we are seeing it anyhow.

We have seen how technology has made administrative tasks much easier;  how whole school communication is made easier and  staying in touch with other stakeholders easier. How pupils can create and publish their work with ease. Now we know that there are pros and cons for any tools – (let’s not start on the email inbox!) but nothing seem to raise the hackles quite like the use of technology. We talk about the debate in absolutes –  around schools who are ‘all ipad’ rather than those who use it as and when it can support their pupil. We talk of ‘paperless’ rather than looking at the savings made via the use of email. Replacing teachers rather than supporting teachers. Automating and boring rather than creative and engaging.

The Future

Then there is the talk about the future – how the promised change that technology was to bring hasn’t happened. Apart from the fact that many of these promises are nothing more than advertisements we need to remember that this is about context. Every school will have their own story – success or otherwise. For every school that has found technology to be nothing more than an expensive distraction there will be a school that has benefited greatly. Finding the good news stories can be a little tougher because they don’t generate the same kind of headlines – but they are there. We just need to think about the wider picture. Consider the online networks of teachers supporting one another – or the blogging community. Think about Skype and how that has welcomed experts into the classroom – shared experiences across the globe. Think about pupils sharing their writing with other schools, instantly, with other authors or with their friends and families.

None of these examples require the absolute and only use of technology, but they wouldn’t be possible without it.

05 Feb

Training our teachers



I had a conversation with a long serving Head Teacher once where they exclaimed that they ‘never’ had student teachers in their school because ‘why would you have someone teaching your pupils who you haven’t employed’. After much discussion I had convinced, myself at least, that supporting teachers in training was a vital part of the work that schools do – at least in part – and that, also, Universities had a big part to play in that a well.

It comes as no surprise, of course, that there is much disagreement over the Initial Teacher Training programme. The universities and their hold on them have been much fragmented over the last five years and we now have an almost bewildering array of ways in which one can get into teaching.  And all underpinned by the Teaching Standards which I am sure we all know like the back of our hands….

Rather than waste a post arguing about the politics behind funding and provision I thought I’d be a bit more positive and explore three things initial teacher training could improve on, from my perspective… Purely practical stuff, obviously..

  • A variety of schools / settings – geographically too!

Loosely linked to the idea of ensuring exposure to a wide variety of teaching styles and teachers (and pupils, of course!). I am astounded at the idea that one school, or maybe two schools can provide a good enough grounding. Teachers should move schools and trainee teachers should see vastly different settings. Teacher’s moving schools is a different blog post..

  • There needs to be a reading list – with different theories…

Yup – and not one where everyone reads an article then discusses it, an actual reading list. One which will challenge, not just reinforce common thinking. Here course leaders need to challenge themselve I’m afraid… keep up to date and offer journals as part of recommendations.

  • True partnership with the schools – does it work?

This works for university as well as SCITT based programmes. Perhaps one school is truly entrenched and supported, but more often than not the course provider makes no attempt whatsoever to check the (second?) school they are being placed in. Find out what makes that school unique, or how the behaviour policy is different. I know, every student carries out an ‘observation week’ – but should providers not support here too? Perhaps offer some national context to what they are seeing? Too often policies are ‘collected’ and then nothing… radio silence… come in for observation week!

Of course I know that every place is slightly different, ever course as a slightly different push on something – but we owe it to the next generation of teachers to get this right.


Incidentally the Head that prompted these thoughts now has student teachers in…