An iPad shared is an iPad enjoyed

Slide1A little while ago I spoke to Emma Cook from the Guardian about children using iPads. I note that her report in today’s Family section draws a connection to the case of the 4 year old who was reported to be receiving treatment for screen addiction. It is certainly worth taking a moment to reflect on how we use family technology and in particular the increasingly ubiquitous iPad/phone. I have no doubt that the most important thing about this technology within a family is that children and parents can share the activities being completed in a way that was just too cumbersome with previous desktops and laptops. Wonderful learning experiences are possible through the conversations that happen around the activities children are iPadding. This is in stark contrast to the image of the individual child seemingly mesmerized by their technology and ignoring what is happening around them. As ever with technology, it is how we use it that matters most.

In a recent report we noted some of the striking issues about iPads, learning and education.

When it comes to Teaching and Learning students are generally reported to be positive about the iPads, seeing them as essential for 21st century education. Within this report there are examples of iPads being used to support learners beyond simple drill and practice games, to support collaborative learning, to provide personalised learning experiences, iPads to augment and enhance deep learning, as ubiquitous, distributed and connected learning tools. We also discuss the ways in which iPads can contribute to Digitally-Enhanced Monitoring and Assessment.

  • iPads can support seamless learning, allowing learners to easily switch learning contexts – from formal to informal or personal to social – and to take control of their own learning. For example, to supplement what they are learning in class in real-time through additional web-based inquiry, or by making digital notes.
  • The finger-driven iPad interface can motivate and engage students, keeping them interested in content for longer, and allowing groups to interact with the device at the same time and with the same object. This enhances and stimulates simultaneous opportunities for face-to-face social interaction in ways that desktop, laptop and even netbook computing with their mouse-driven screen, ‘individual’ peripherals, fixed location, weight and overall design do not.
  • Research suggests that the adoption and use of iPads in and beyond the classroom allows students to augment and enhance their learning in ways that were previously not possible or not so easy to do.
  • Teachers, students and parents report that the multiple communication features, routine availability and easy accessibility of iPads in the classroom and in students’ homes make communication between teachers and students, and school and home easier and more routine.
  • A key potential benefit of iPad-like devices involves their working in combination with other technologies. In combination with efficient network connectivity and cloud storage they offer ever-increasing capacity for the collection and collation of data about learning activity wherever learners are. The analysis and representation of this data about learning is vital to formative evaluation, assessment, self-assessment and reflection.

The evidence from parents is positive in the main. They identify benefits such as: increased engagement and interest in learning, gains in knowledge and technology skills, more time spent on homework and more opportunity to make learning relevant and authentic. Parents state that home-school communication is improved with the introduction of 1:1 tablet devices and that not having heavy school bags to carry around is a major benefit. Parents do also express some anxiety about breakage, theft, loss or misuse of the devices by children, and express concern about costs and inconsistencies in what parents are expected to contribute.

For learners iPads are easy to use and attractive. The research on iPad use and adoption overwhelmingly reports that tablet devices have a positive impact on students’ engagement with learning. Findings report increased motivation, enthusiasm, interest, engagement, independence and self-regulation, creativity and improved productivity.

For teachers, there is evidence that iPads enhanced the learning experience and transformed teaching practice. Mobility, portability and general ease of use as well as rapid one-touch access to tools (compared with time consuming logins and resource-booking requirements for networked computers) enabled a wider range of learning activities to routinely occur in the classroom. The availability of a wide range of apps and connectivity to cloud computing as well as the immediacy of communication (via email, facetime, etc.) with students afforded by the omni-present iPads enabled teachers to explore alternative activities (3D, interactive, multimodal, virtual tours, etc.) and forms of assessment. In addition, teachers felt that the devices enabled them, as teachers, to promote independent learning, to differentiate learning more easily for different student needs and to easily share resources both with students and with each other. There are however some implications for training and development and we identify that there are recognisable phases in teacher familiarisation with these devices and their integration into classroom activity. The identification of these phases can inform CPD.

For decision makers, such as school leaders, there is pressure to enhance learning and iPads offer potential to help. Many schools have adopted the iPad or similar ‘Post-PC’ tablet devices, whilst many others are looking to do so in the near future. We can learn from their experiences. Our research revealed multiple drivers and implementation models for iPads in schools and classrooms. The majority of 1:1 implementation models were driven by government bodies and school leadersSmall-scale approaches, such as class sets, and shared group iPads, tended to originate from other groups: industry pilots, researcher-supported studies, individual teachers or digital champions and individual schools. Primary schools were more likely to go for shared devices and class sets, whereas secondary schools tended to aim for 1:1 devices. Early adopters tended to fund devices whereas more recent adopters are more likely to seek funding through parental contributions or to arrange leasing options for students.

Our review suggests that schools wishing to use tablets should have a clear rationale for adopting this technology. Successful implementation of tablet technologies in schools requires careful, long-term planning before, during and after the event. Such planning involves consideration of existing technical networks, ownership models, the technology lifecycle, broad stakeholder preparation and on-going engagement (parents, teachers, learners, technical managers, etc.) as well as plans for capturing progress and evaluation.

In the current UK climate, funding in schools is very tight and many feel that the high cost of rolling out 1:1 tablet initiatives requires strong justification. The potential impact of initial and follow-on costs on what is an already limited funding stream is a particularly controversial issue for some, especially in those instances where parents are being asked to ‘take up the slack’. A variety of ownership models were identified. It is important to recognise that the range and variety of ownership models do, however, have implications for organising students’ learning, continuity of access to students’ work and learning data, as well as to management, maintenance and security of the devices.

There are also significant implications for other user groups. The technical support implications are significant. The apparent ease of transition that many of the UK schools that have successfully implemented an iPad initiative exhibited was masked due to the fact that they had recently moved to new, well-equipped school buildings. Beyond the provision of the network, the integration process can be made worse if new devices like tablets are not provided by the school or college and belong to learners, are of different makes and types and use different operating systems. The consistency of the iPad operating system and interface and the availability of apps, as well as issues of security, backup, restore and lifecycle support was identified as an important benefit of iPads over other devices. However, other device manufacturers have upped their game and can now compete in this important area. In this respect, the rapid pace of development in the area of tablet computing is a key issue for schools as they plan for future technology needs and one that requires a process of continuous evaluation.

No technology has an impact on learning in its own right; rather, its impact depends upon how it is used. iPads are no exception to this and in this report we identify ways in which iPads can be used to support teaching and learning. There is evidence that they can help teachers, learners and parents in multiple ways to be more effective. To leverage these learning benefits, the iPad should play the supporting role to the learning activity. The question that should be asked is not  ‘Can iPads support learning?”, but rather “how can iPads be used to support collaborative learning, or exploratory learning”, or whatever. The iPad it is one of a range of tools that can help learning, and when used wisely it can be effective. For schools, teachers and parents thinking of investing in iPads, there is much to be learnt from those who have already taken this path, and an increasing array of devices and ownership options to choose from. As with all technology, this is not a ‘one-off’ decision and the on-going costs, and the need for on-going evaluation and monitoring should not be underestimated.



Education Hack: Movie trailer of AAA* students building and hacking

The Education Hack this last weekend at the London Knowledge Lab were 2 of the most enjoyable days of my working life – the students, teachers, volunteers and film crew all worked together to develop great ideas into practical designs and prototypes. The students then presented their ideas on the main stage at the London Festival of Education and inspired and amazed the audience.I’ll post each idea over the next few days, but for now here is the trailer

Decoding Learning: The Proof, Promise and Potential of Digital Education

This evening Nesta launched their report: Decoding Learning, which was authored by the London Knowledge lab and colleagues at LSRI in Nottingham.

Our starting point for the research we report was that digital technologies do offer opportunities for innovation that can positively transform teaching and learning, and that our challenge is to identify the shape that these innovations take.

Many research studies have addressed the impact of particular technological innovations, and many meta–analytic reviews have aggregated these findings. Typically, these synthesising reviews do find some evidence of positive impact. However, there are two important complicating factors that limit the strength of the claims that can be made.

Firstly, the evidence is drawn from a huge variety of learning contexts: the wide range of teacher experience and learner ability means that too often the impact identified is relatively modest in scale. The breadth of contexts limits the impact.

Secondly, these findings are invariably drawn from evidence about how technology supports existing teaching and learning practices, rather than transforming those practices.

We looked for proof, potential and promise in digital education:

Proof by putting the learning first.

Promise for technology to help learning in new ways.

Potential to make better use of technologies we already have.

In order to ask these questions we need to look beyond the published research and corporate publications, we need to look at what is happening amongst teachers and learners as well.

What is clear is that no technology has an impact on learning in its own right; rather, its impact depends upon the way in which it is used. Accordingly, we have organised our review around 8 effective learning themes, which are based upon an analysis of learners’ actions.

In each theme there are reasons to feel positive and reason to want more – there are some great examples in this report from traditional technologies such as:

  • Interactive White Boards being used in effective ways, to
  • Learners working with experts to identify solar storms, to
  • Using context-rich life-logs to increase their understanding of their own learning and capability and
  • teachers creating GPS games that meet the learning needs of their students.

It is important to recognise that in addition to the learning themes themselves, which incorporate a variety of learning activities; the learning themes can be combined in interesting and effective ways– for example, the suite of web-based learning tools that was used in one of our highly rated teacher-led examples illustrates one example of Learning in and across Settings providing an overarching framework for Learning through Making. Small groups of learners were taught web design using collaboration scripts and incomplete concept maps. These tools were designed to allow groups of learners to work together on extended tasks using a scripted inquiry approach. The cross-setting opportunities created by the online environment allow classroom support for construction projects that mainly occur at home.

BUT Understanding how technology can be employed to improve learning is only part of the picture.

If innovations are to enter the mainstream, and if they are to fulfil their obvious potential, there are a number of systemic challenges that must be addressed.

We have identified certain trends and opportunities grounded in effective practice and set out what we believe are the most compelling opportunities to improve learning through technology.

For example, there is too little innovative technology-supported practice in the critical area of Learning from Assessment. And yet huge potential through learning analytics and a growing appetite for formative assessment. If, as learners, we do not know what we understand then how can we progress? If, as teacher, we do not know what our students understand, how can we help them to learn?

Making is an effective way of learning. There is much excitement around mending, mashing, and making with digital tools, making it an area ripe with possibility. Robotic kits, authoring tools, and multimedia production tools are just some examples of the technologies that can support learning through making. To learn effectively through making, careful consideration needs to be given to how the process of making leads to the desired learning outcome and to the sharing that is a vital component of learning through construction

What more might we gain by combining these two themes and conducting formative assessment through making and sharing?

All these examples, highlight the fact that Innovation needs to be conceptualised as some learning with a technology used in a particular way in a particular context.

1) We must stop talking about technology generically without being more specific – what technology, how used to support what type if learning, where, with whom and with what else?

To not recognize this is to reduce the value of the question to asking if roads are an effective ay of getting from a to b – of course roads can get me from a to be, BUT which road, what time of day, who else is driving, what are the weather conditions? Will it be faster than the train – well it depends….

… And travel is so much simpler than learning

So,  – Ask rather can games help make the drill and practice activities effective for learners on their own at school? Sure, they can if they are well designed and challenge the child appropriately addressing explicitly what needs to be learnt and offering appropriate support.

Can digital making and mobiles help learners understand more about how energy consumption in their home changes over time and according to their household’s behaviour – well sure it can if they use some sensors for temperature and light, arduino technology and data reporting to an online aggregator, such as for example, and then present and access this through a bespoke mobile phone application that you build yourself and that you can use to check the family consumption while you are travelling home from school on the bus

…And these technologies are inexpensive

Ask the right question and you’ll get a useful answer

2) We need to take more notice of practice and better link this to academic research.

We need to think again about how this type if evidence can be more effectively brought into the picture – can we use technology to create the kind of database of examples that can start to provide a more ‘scientific’ evidence base for us ot use?

3) New pedagogy? or old pedagogy in a new frock?

If you really want to change pedagogy then stop JUST collecting evidence about how to make existing pedagogy work with technology

4) We need to know more about what is happening when technology is used effectively.

We need better evidence about the context in which technology is being used effectively.Evidence about the impact of technology on teaching and learning is gathered from a huge variety of learning settings, and reported without adequate indexing of the contextual factors that influence the nature and scale of the impact recorded. This means that applying the findings of any research study to a fresh setting is severely hampered. We need to know where, with whom, with what …

5) Make better use of what we have got

We need to change the mindset amongst teachers and learners: from a ‘plug and play’ approach where digital tools are used, often in isolation, for a single learning activity; to one of ‘think and link’ where those tools are used in conjunction with other resources where appropriate, for a variety of learning activities. Teachers have always been highly creative, creating a wide range of resources for learners. As new technologies become increasingly prevalent, they will increasingly need to be able to digitally ‘stick and glue’. To achieve this, teachers will need to develop and share ways of using new technologies – either through informal collaboration or formal professional development. But they cannot be expected to do this alone. They need time and support from school leaders to explore the full potential of the technologies they have at their fingertips as tools for learning. School leaders can further assist teacher development by tapping into the expertise available in the wider community.

6) If you want better innovations, then  Link industry, research and practice to realise the potential of digital education.

There is strong evidence of disconnect between the key partners involved in developing educational technology. This situation makes little sense at a time when technology has become consumerised across society, and there is increasing evidence for the efficacy of technology as a learning tool. Academic and practitioner research is poorly connected and is typically conducted in isolation from the technology developers whose products grace our schools and homes. And yet, both researchers and the developers of educational technology need to know whether, and how, their work enhances learning. Industry, researchers and practitioners need to work closely together to test ideas and evaluate potential innovations at a time when design changes can easily be implemented and products can be improved before they are taken to market. Such a process would benefit industry by providing clearer evidence of effectiveness to boost sales; and it would benefit practitioners who would have access to better products on the market.

Time to re-load? Computational Thinking and Computer Science in Schools

Snapshot—April 5th, 2012 In Chicago today the Obama re-election campaign is set to be the most technically sophisticated ever seen with voters being wooed via Twitter and Facebook, and digital technology along with those who understand how to build and use it set to play a key role in influencing people’s decision making. Across the Atlantic in the UK we face an abundance of choices about how to exploit and use technology, and this poses an enormous challenge for both the current and future education of our children. The realisation that we need people who can produce as well as consume technology has brought a new energy and excitement about computer science and computational thinking, which is being heralded by some as the new literacy of the 21st century. The technology revolution has changed the way many of us work and interact, it has generated new industries and new
businesses, and it is natural that we now look to schools, teachers and the education system to help us to understand how we might best prepare our children to live, work and make best use of what computer technology offers.

But how best can we do this?

A mess? 2012 has seen the Secretary of State for Education state that “ICT in schools is a mess” and he has called for a new approach with the hope that technology can be used creatively to develop curricular content: the ‘wiki’ curriculum. What is happening with ICT and computer science education in schools has also been the subject of a 2011 Naace report entitled “The Importance of Technology”, an Ofsted report on ICT in schools, and the importance of providing young people with the skills required by the new workplace is captured by Nesta’s Next Gen report. Clearly there is growing concern and government commitment to change, so what change should we make and why?

Is Computer Science the answer? Computer science is an important element of the debate. The Royal Society’s 2012 ‘Shut down or restart?’ report suggested that a sound understanding of computer science concepts enables people to get the best from the systems they use, and to solve problems when things go wrong. However, computer science is evolving rapidly and its interdisciplinarity means that its evolution touches on many domains and every day life. There are significant challenges for those interested in how best to include it in the curriculum.

Are we sure we know what we want to change? There is already some excellent teaching of ICT and computer science in some schools within the current curriculum and programme of study, so not everything is wrong. Care needs to be taken that the changes we make do lead to a better learning experience at school: an experience that inspires and educates. But, are we clear about what is wrong with computer science and ICT in schools now? Can we be precise about the rationale for what learners at different stages need to be taught? What do we want learners to be able to achieve as a result of studying computer science? Where do ICT and computer science fit in the structure of the school curriculum: media, design, science, cross-curricular?

How can learners tap into the power of computational thinking? The skills of computational thinking can be taught with or without computers, by exploring how processes work, looking for problems in everyday systems, examining patterns in data, and questioning evidence. With a computer, learners can put their computational thinking into action. Could a focus on computational thinking better equip learners to use their understanding effectively and to learn how to apply a range of computing tools? Writing the code that makes a computer behave in a particular way is a creative pursuit: reflecting on what you have constructed is a key part of learning. We may therefore valuably ask: How can we develop good computational thinking for children?

Are we looking in all the right places? Are there less obvious areas of research that might help us answer some of these questions? For example, many people encounter the experience of Flow and are all too familiar with the experience of losing themselves in a task. Might the idea of Flow itself help us understand the learning process in computational thinking and computer science? Researchers in the psychology of programming have spent decades exploring how people learn to code, surely their expertise needs to be drawn into the debate?

There are no short cuts to answering these questions. The process of addressing them requires an interdisciplinary and participatory approach that involves groups from across the sectors that is inclusive in nature and powerful in design. This will require an approach that is new to society, schools, teachers and learners: a process that must be both flexible in its thinking and realistic in its understanding of the role of schools.

Tomorrow we will be having a debate about some of these issues at the London Knowledge Lab and I’ll report back on how that goes.

Read our briefing paper (from which the above text is taken)

Follow the event through illuminate – go to for access to the live stream.

Thinking like a computer or computing like a thinker?

In my last post I finished with a comment about pop-11, a langauge designed to help novices learn how to program and to grapple with Artificial Intelligence. I also included an image of the Eliza programme an early example of natural language processing designed in the sixties by Joseph Weizenbaum at MIT. The computer user typed in questions and the ELIZA programme appeared to make human like responses. It worked on a script and when the user started to ask questions that were outside the script, ELIZA struggled. Probably the most famous example of the ELIZA programme was that of a psychotherapist, but my version of the ELIZA programme was one of the first pieces of code I ever produced in pop-11. I found pop-11 a good way into programming, it enabled me to get something up and running quickly, it helped me to start thinking in a particular way and it introduced me to the practical design and application of algorithms. My ELIZA program took on the personna of a politician, and it was surprisingly realistic and succeeding in writing a program that worked and produced a dialogue gave me a huge amount of pleasure. You know the sort of thing:

John: You don’t seem to be having a very good week

Teresa: Why do you think I am not having a very good week?

John: Well it looks as if your attempts to deport Abu Qatada have been stalled

Teresa: My attempts to deport Abu Qatada have not been stalled

John: But you acted too early and you have left him a days window to appeal

Teresa: I have not acted too early and I have not left him a days window to appeal

John: Do you not think that the three month deadline ended after you arrested him?

Teresa: I do not think that the three month deadline ended after I arrested him?

John: Are you sure that you have counted the days correctly?

Teresa: I am sure that I have counted the days correctly?

John: Is it not possible that you and your team have made a mistake?

Teresa: No, it is not possible that me and my team have made a mistake?

John: So have the European Court confirmed that you and your team have the correct deadline

Teresa: I have confirmed that me and my team have the correct deadline

John: But have the European Court confirmed this

Teresa: I don’t know why you are asking me if the European Court have confirmed this

John: Because the European Court will now decide if there is time for Abu Qatada  to appeal

Teresa: I don’t know why you are asking me if the European Court have confirmed this. I have confirmed that me and my team have the correct deadline

John: But we need to know if the deadline you used was correct

Teresa: I don’t know why you are asking me if the European Court have confirmed this. I have confirmed that me and my team have the correct deadline

John: We seem to be going around in circles here

Teresa: I have not gone around in a circle I travel in a Jaguar: a circle is a simple shape of Euclidean geometry consisting of those points in a plane that are equidistant from a given point, the centre

John: !

To code or not to code, if that is the question, what is the answer?

I was struck by the item on the R4 Today program this morning at 8.45 ‘ish when Rory Cellan-Jones told us about his day course at Decoded, through which he, as a complete novice, built an app. You can see his app and his story on the Today website, and as Rory points out “coding is cool – the government is listening to those calling for it to be taught in schools, and executives are signing up for courses.” This has prompted me to reflect on my own programming experiences and to make this the subject of a few posts over the next few days and running up to our next “What the Research Says” event on computing in schools.

I am a member of the BBC micro generation who first came across computing through using this delightfully frustrating device. However, I was not a member of the young audience at whom this machine was aimed, but the wife of a teacher who became intrigued by what her husband was up to in his office. Having secretly mastered the manoeuvre of disk swapping that got you started with the BBC micro my appetite was whet and I enrolled for a course at the local technical college. When I went to sign-up I said I wanted to learn about computers and I was asked what I meant by that. I had no clue why they were asking me this question, because the answer seemed obvious to me – I wanted to learn how the computer worked of course! However, I was offered a range of courses that would take me into the realms of managing a spreadsheet or learning to word process as well as learning how to write a program in basic – no brainer of a choice for me then. I duly arrived at my first evening class ready to build something, no idea what, but something. I loved it, even though my outputs were modest:  a greeting on the screen (you know the one), a date reminder, but I was hooked. I wanted more and much to the bafflement of my husband and to my children aged 5 and 3 I announced that I was going ‘back to school’ and was going to apply to read Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at University. I was a distinctly mature student and was a little afraid that I would be the ‘silly old woman at the back of the class’. My fears were unfounded – most of us felt silly when it came to programming, because for most of us it was very, very hard!

After my BBC basic baptism, I entered the heady world of pop-11 a langauge designed to help novices learn how to program and to grapple with AI.


To be continued….

Let’s talk about what the research says: Industry, Academia, Learning: 7 days to go

Vanessa Pittard DfE, Richard Noss TEL Research Programme Director, BESA, Intellect, ALT, and Demos about research inspired technology enhanced learning to tackle challenges from teenagers’ energy consumption to social communication in a multimodal virtual environment for youngsters with Autism Spectrum Disorders. What the research says event at LKL now has a waiting list for places! Clearly people do want to talk.

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