Monthly Archives: August 2012

Annoying IT/internet policies?⤴

from @ Not Just Any Brick In The Wall

This appeared on twitter the other day.

Not happy with 140 characters I’ve tried to organise my thoughts and synthesise some of the conversations had over the past few months.

From the conversation had with colleagues form around the country there is, in Scotland, what appears to be an educational ‘apartheid’ when it comes to internet access: access to the internet and IT/Internet policy varies widely region to region. As a result it might be argued this puts many children at a disadvantage, particularly in the jobs market, when viewing their educational experience against those educated in a more enlightened region.

One of the problems (and a growing frustration) we seem to have is when teachers argue for more freedom of access, more autonomy, more responsibility to decide as professionals what their classes need with respect to internet access, they are met with dismissive remarks such as “…not convinced of the benefits…”. The argument for some Local Authorities (LAs) appears to centre on, but never actually stated as, a fear of litigation. More specifically “stupid, naive or criminal teachers getting the LA (and themselves) in hot water; Cyber-bullying by pupils or time/attention wasting of pupils”. To a degree I can understand their [LAs] position, but it is over hyped and misplaced in the context of the classroom.

We are told that LAs can’t take the chance that pupils might see “inappropriate” material, fair enough – who would want that? But pupils can switch on their devices at the school gate and get all the “inappropriate” material they want! It’s not for us to monitor what goes on outwith school, but they do need guidance and education on the use of the technology they have. So, the question is, who is in the best position to educate the children and, in this respect, what is the best way to achieve the common goal? A rhetorical question, the answer should be obvious!

“Asking teachers to teach in the 21st century whilst compelling them to remain in and use 20th Century techniques (and equipment) is not sustainable”, ask any employer! What appears to be the case in some LAs is that “policy makers and those ‘policing’ it have little or no understanding of 21st Century tech”, its benefits or what skills employers need and pupils require! I get the impression that some have been away from the classroom too long!

“Blocking access, filtering sites, banning devices is essentially treating the internet as a bad thing”, as one colleague put it. Parts of it undoubtedly are, but in the process of this blocking and filtering LAs run the risk of treating all [teachers] with a lack of professional respect and courtesy – it appears as if we are not trusted to manage our own or pupils’ access. Effectively we’re ‘convicted’ of the crime before committing it: the logic being (I suppose), can’t give you access ‘cause you might do something ‘wrong’. Given that parents trust us with their children for 6 hour a day, this hardly instils confidence!

There is a flip side to this coin that is yet to be grappled with: that of the teacher centred fear of either the technology and/or the internet. Too many teachers will not want open access because they fear that they will not be able to police it and they will carry the can for pupil misdemeanours. I have to say that in my experience this has not been the case, but nevertheless it remains a legitimate concern.

The solution is simple.

These concerns and frustrations can only be address with sensible policies that recognise the professionalism of the individual teacher. LAs need to give teachers the professional respect, freedom of access, autonomy, and responsibility to manage their classes’ internet needs and deal with mistakes, errors of judgement or criminal behaviour as and when it happens and not presume guilt before the fact. So, in writing this blog I appeal to all Local Authorities: give us the tools to give our pupils the very best educational experience we can.



Since publishung this blog Charlie Love has added to the debate with his own take entitled “Duty of Care: Is it an excuse?”

Getting the message across-effective methods of presentation⤴

from @ JDMcDsblog

Note taking is an under valued skill. It is taken for granted that pupils or students know how to take notes. Not so. It is actually a complex skill which needs to be taught, and one I keep reviewing to see what is regarded as most effective. I am also interested in what makes good presentations. Do you issue notes before, during or after a lesson? On paper or electronically? What physically do pupils do in terms of note taking during the lesson? Do we use PowerPoint or perhaps Prezi? Th enature of our presentation has a big impacton the use pupils make of their notes, and on how they learn.

Edward Tufte is an expert on design and discussion on his forum has much to say about the elegance and application of visual images and the printed word. For additional thoughts see also here

Issue handouts BEFORE a lesson and use them actively DURING the lesson

NO Power Points-sporadic use of slides-emphasise pupil interaction (“Instead of constructing Powerpoint-style slides, use original material-screenshots from websites, book covers, journal articles enlarged as “callouts” in the style of contemporary current affairs programs. Include animations and motion”) See

Find a good “supergraphic” (i.e., a graphic loaded with information) and hand it out at the beginning of the presentation and let audience explore it using their own cognitive style.
Annotation is at the heart of explaining things.

Apply 7 Design Fundamentals
1.) show comparisons
2.) show causality
3.) show multivariate data
4.) don’t separate words from graphics,
5.) document everything and tell people about it,
6.) Focus on quality and relevance
7.) important things should be adjacent in space

From Standford University we get a host of advice:

Start by explaining a concept in the traditional lecture format, using graphics and equations as well as words. After a five-to ten- minute mini-lecture, pose a brief problem that the students can’t answer unless they understand the basic concept.
Ask students to turn to take a minute to discuss the concepts just gone over.
Active participation and immediate content review enhances student learning.

Uses knowledge of how students learn. First present complex ideas in a simplified form, stripped of qualifications and conditions. Once students understand the general idea, they are prepared to make sense of all the details and qualifiers.

Consider a combined lecture/discussion format that gives more responsibility to students to raise and answer questions.

At the start of class meetings, ask students to summarize the main points covered in recent lectures. Make explicit connections between that summary and the new lecture. This strategy can help students understand the relationship between new material and previous material, while reinforcing what they have learned.