A place for the fun stuff

I love teaching children new stuff.

Today I taught my Year 1 boys how to do stop motion animation. Admittedly it was pretty primitive. We used iPads on book stands to take the photos (an app called iMotion). The subjects were toy dinosaurs. The outcomes were pretty basic too – 3 seconds (at most) of jerky stop motion video.

But the boys all made a video. They all learned that if you move the camera it spoils the video. They all saw that if you had the patience to move the subject just a little bit each time it makes the best video. All that in 45 minutes.

I sometimes wonder about this kind of fun stuff. In Year 1 reading is the big thing. Closely followed by mathematics, with spoken language and written work tying for third. These things are the key to academic success. Should we really bother with niceties like stop motion animation?

In many schools, the fun stuff is increasingly squeezed to spend more and more time on English and maths. But I like the fun stuff. It keeps the interest of both the children and teachers flowing so I think it’s important to keep on with it.

#28daysofwriting Day 26

Chromebooks are inherently evil

To understand this post, you really should read my previous post first.

Chromebooks, of course, are not inherently evil, but let’s just say that they are.

For a start, £200 for something that only browses the web? That is ridiculous isn’t it. For £200, you could buy a decent phone that does the same thing. You could probably spend that money more productively on a camping holiday in Shropshire. Or a really nice bottle of whisky.

Then there’s Google. The company that pay no tax. And they’re the only ones doing it. Not Apple or Dell or any other tech companies, who of course are the model of civic consciousness. I heard someone say that if Google paid their tax, every child in the country could be bought a Raspberry Pi…

And what do Google get out of Chromebooks. They get our data. All that information that tells them how to send us just the right advert to tempt us, to make us spend even more of our money.

And there’s the World Wide Web itself. That vile world of http which is about one quarter porn, another quarter gambling and the rest spoof sites and wikipedia.

I mean what is the point of a Chromebook?

The real reason I don’t like iPads

iPads are amazing.

So I’m trying to work out why I don’t like them so much. Many educators I know rave about them, talking about how they are transforming classroom practice. How can it be that I dislike something that benefits children? Is it their cost? Ease of use? Reliability? Compatibility? The fact that I’m a bit of a Google-head and just suffering from raw iPad-envy?

No. It’s none of those. You can justify their cost if the educational benefits are high enough; they are clearly ease to use. Reliability issues would hit the national press and so must be none existent. As for compatibility – there are so many Apps in the App store, who cares if the iPad is a bit of a closed system. Educators like Daniel Harvey have made great lists of iPad-related resources that make it easy to use iPads in the classroom for even the most inexperienced of users.

So what is my problem? I have realised it is school leaders.

At a recent conference for hundreds of headteachers and deputies, I was bemused to see purple-covered iPad after purple-covered iPad emerge from their designer containers only for the basic ‘Notepad’ App to be switched on. Then headteacher after headteacher began taking notes, one index-finger at a time.

It doesn’t take much searching to find that there are many other note-taking Apps out there – many of which would at least improve the experience of taking notes, or even better, the productivity, with something like Evernote. It struck me that many of my colleagues would have been helped with the simple addition of a keyboard, or maybe even, (shock, horror) dispensing with the technology and using paper and pen.

Meanwhile, I sat taking notes on my Chromebook and pulling up web pages relevant to the topics in hand, surrounded by colleagues with more expensive technology using them extremely ineffectively. If only they followed a twitter stream like #ipaded – then at least they might be getting some value out of their technology.

But that wasn’t all.

A few weeks later I spoke to an ICT co-ordinator who had come back from the Summer vacation to find that his headteacher had spend a substantial chunk of his ICT budget on iPads. The headteacher had been seduced by the shininess of the iPads and the kudos he would get from the students by purchasing them, without having thought about what the students would actually do with the iPads. Not only that but the ICT co-ordinator was disgruntled and disillusioned that he had been bypassed so. It’s a headteacher’s perogative you might argue, but it strikes me as a poor decision on more than one level.

In conclusion, my dislike stems from the decision-making of fellow school leaders. I’m excited when I see educators make the most of their technology for the benefit of the education of their students. It disappoints me when I see educators spending a lot of public money on technology that isn’t well used.

No technology has an impact on learning on its own: success depends on how it is used.”

Nesta, Decoding Learning