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: Don’t ask if technology can change teaching and learning, ask how teachers and learners can change technology

You can now see the presentations that the Education Hack students made at the London Festival of Education here. Each team explain their idea in a brief 2 minute presentation. These short and sweet briefings illustrate exactly how out of date we are when we ask if or how technology has or will change teaching and learning. The power is now in the hands of our teachers and learners to turn the technology into what they want it to be – our students and teachers have the power and they used it well at the Hack event

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.

A bit of Yackety Yak about the Hackety Hack

I am increasingly excited about Re-Designing our education and I have a song in my heart…

Get out those mobiles and that scratch
Or you won’t get to code and mash
If you don’t drum on that LKL door
You ain’t gonna teach and learn no more.
Hackety Hak (you won’t look back)

Re-Designing our Education – Education Hack – 7 days and counting

Re-Designing our Education – Education Hack 16-17 November, 2102 at The London Knowledge Lab

What a great weekend!  A new initiative from Nesta:  Digital Making initiative and the Mozilla Festival too. But even more exciting than all this is the final countdown to our Education Hack Event, which starts a week today where learners will be working with teachers, researchers and volunteers from the SME and StartUp community to ‘Hack their Education’ and show us all how technology really could make a difference to teaching and learning.

The Education Hack Event involves 50 students from 6 schools over 2 days at London Knowledge Lab working with volunteers to develop the future of education . It will enable secondary students to put into action their ideas about how technology could revolutionise their learning. Teachers get hands-on too, working with their students and experts from the LKL, industry and the media.

From e-diary systems to help them track their learning and homework to cyber bullying help networks, the students have the ideas and we will help them put them into action. This is ‘The real McCoy’ – kids hacking for good.

The technologies that are being used include MIT apps inventor, Java, HTML, digital film, web building using Thimble, Arduino kits, content mashups and  much, much more

Members of the public can also take part on the Saturday afternoon, see what the students have built and try their hand at a range of activities from making jewellery tagged with radio frequency detection devices to writing code.

Teaching children computer science, including programming, is at the heart of the policy shift in the current teaching of IT. Programming helps build understanding of and access to formal systems of thought that are essential in helping people to express their ideas about the world, and make sense of it. That’s why programming is important: not just to increase the supply of programmers (important) or to introduce to everyone what is under the bonnet of the systems that power our society (essential), but to introduce the power of computational thinking. Events like Education Hackday allow young people to develop their computational thinking and hack new ideas to revolutionise their learning environment, working with their peers, teachers and technology professionals.

As one of our participating teacher says:

“Education Hackday will provide our gifted and talented computing and IT students with a challenging “real life” opportunity. They will learn how to use new computing and programming tools, experience different design environments, and work with a range of other peers, agencies and experts. The benefits of such an experience have a long term impact on the pupils themselves, as well on as the staff of the school.”

Chris Betts, Blatchington Mill School:

Superfast Britain – buy your shiny new learning here?

The Economist Intelligence Unit releases its report on Superfast Britain? Myths and realities about the UK’s broadband future today and has selected Education as a key area of interest. This is a balanced report that does not promote an unrealistic hype about the possibilities offered by superfast broadband. With respect to Education, the report concludes that “superfast broadband can be used to support educational transformation, but will not bring it about on its own”. This is a key point – it is not the existence of super fast or super fat broadband alone that makes the difference, what matters are the possibilities afforded when such infrastructure is combined with human enterprise and a landscape of consumerized technology in which  almost everyone has a potentially sophisticated learning device in their hands or homes:TV, phone, or tablet.

Jon James MD BroadbandVirgin Media made an interesting point yesterday evening at a dinner to launch the Economist report. He noted that when selling Broadband, speed was not something that customers necessarily found enticing. He suggested that one useful way to think about what people want to buy is that they want to ‘buy the internet’. This makes one wonder then what the combined package of fast and efficient infrastructure, plus sophisticated devices for all will enable companies to sell and people to believe they are buying? Will people believe that they can ‘buy learning or knowledge’ in the same way that they can buy the internet?

This is different from buying an application to teach maths or visiting a website full of resources about science, or joining Khan Academy, it is about the extent to which people may believe that they can ‘buy learning’ as a commodity in the same way that they ‘buy the internet’.

Working out if you have been successful in buying the Internet is simple, you either have or you haven’t got on-line, and you can finesse that by noting how quickly you can stream or download those big FAT videos. But, how will people know if they have succeeded in buying learning? The key commodity we might usefully be ‘selling’ at this point in time are the skills and knowledge that will enable people to make accurate and useful assessments about what they do know and understand, and what they still need to learn.


iPads for learning: over sold, under valued or just plain unknown?

As microsoft launched its new Surface tablet the London Knowledge Lab started its Autumn series of ‘What the Research Says Events’ with a session about iPads and Education. The following text was used as a provocation for a lively and well-informed discussion that will be used to produce a full report in January.

Any report about iPads and Education must surely be falling into the trap of seeing learning and teaching with technology in terms of the type of technology being employed? In this short briefing paper we are certainly concerned with a type of technology: touch screen, portable, wireless devices, such as the iPad. However, the emphasis is on exploring how effective learning activities can be supported by iPad devices.  The aim of this short paper is to stimulate discussion: discussion that will feed into a larger event and report in January 2013.

An article in Time (tech) earlier this year sums up the situation about iPads and education rather nicely: we think they are good for learning, but we don’t have the evidence. The article reported that a study in Auburn, Maine found that young learners using the iPad 2 scored higher on literacy tests and were more enthused about learning. However, it also reported the powerful views of Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, who urged caution, saying that  “There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” …“iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning”.

We therefore focus on thoughts about learning with iPads based upon what we already know about learning and technology – hence the emphasis is on evidence based potential rather than hard evidence of performance.

12 Thoughts about iPads for Education

  1. Sharing Learning

We know that human knowledge arises from social interaction. Social interactions can take the form of traditional teacher and learner interactions, peer-centred interactions, or participation in activities with large groups or communities. iPad technologies can support easy sharing between 2 or 3 people sitting together and using a single device in the same location. They can also be effective at putting people in touch with each other when they are in distant physical locations, through wi-fi or phone network connections and using software applications such as skype. The quality of these shared experiences is not guaranteed by the iPad of course, but is there potential to develop high quality shared learning through with the iPad as a platform?

  1. 2.     Personalising learning

All learners are different and require teaching and learning interactions that acknowledge these differences and provide suitable support. A technology, such as an iPad, that is owned by an individual learner and populated with material and applications that are particularly suitable for their needs could be a powerful, portable, personal learning partner.

  1. 1 to 1 AND 1 to Many Learning

Benjamin Bloom from the University of Chicago wrote a seminal paper in 1984, which illustrated that learners who were individually tutored performed significantly better than those who received conventional classroom instruction. Do iPad type technologies offer the potential to work in combination with individualised tutoring systems and provide communication sessions with human tutors to provide such individual tutoring? iPad technologies can also be used as a receiver for broadcast media, such as lectures and videos given by individual experts and received by many individuals. Thus could learners be ‘scaffolded’ to success by others who are more knowledgeable and who may be teachers, experts, peers or the technology itself acting in a tutorial capacity?

  1. 4.     BIG Data

A small, portable device that is personal to a learner and through which they conduct learning activities is not only a window for learning, but also a window through which invaluable data about the learner and their interactions can be captured, stored and analysed. The potential for the widespread use of tools that can capture the progress of a learning episode, individual or joint is particularly powerful. The visualisation of this analysed data on the iPad also offers important support for assessment and personal reflection. The storage capacity of the iPad device is limited, but access to cloud based storage might alleviate this constraint, provided network access is available, but what are the social costs and implications here?

  1. 5.     Knowing what Learners Know and Need

Being able to understand what a learner knows and understands is key to teaching and learning. Learners need to be completing tasks that are appropriately challenging, without being so difficult that learners are bound to fail. In combination with the capacity for the collection and collation of data about learning activity as highlighted above, the analysis and representation of this learning data is vital. Could iPads can be used to access such representations and act as repositories for personal models of the learner and their progress? Could these models then be used by the learner to reflect on their performance and can be shared with teachers and parents?

  1. 6.     Making, Hacking and Mashing Learning

Making and sharing are important learning activities through which learners must construct their own understanding and share the fruits of their construction with others. Do iPads offer an effective platform through which tools such as scratch can be used, through which blogs can be written and viewed, and through which apps can be distribute? What are the limitations e.g. constraints from the AppStore and the need for the Apple development tools?

  1. 7.     Playing and Learning

Playing and exploring can be great fun and very motivating. However the games being played need to be well designed and offer real learning opportunities. Learners may well need support, at least initially, to develop the metacognitive and self-regulation skills to get the most from such ‘free-form’ self-guided activities. Could the iPad be a useful medium through which these activities can be effectively acted out, provided the activities themselves are driven by well–design software and timely human support interventions?

  1. 8.     Apps for Learning

Applications can be used to support many effective learning practices, depending upon the design and quality of the app. For example, we know that drill and practice activities have a role to play in learning. They can for example, be very effective at preparing learners for the examinations they need to pass and for achieving fluency in particular skills. Many Apps offer good opportunities to practice anything from language learning and maths to cooking skills. Other Apps can offer opportunities to track ones performance in sport or measure distances between points on a map, as well as a host of other possibilities, some more learning effective than others. Does the iPad provide the platform for these Apps and enables them to be used in multiple locations within and beyond formal educational institutions? Teachers have been quick to take up iPad type applications and there are many examples of their use to be found in practitioner blogs and discussion forums. This presents a challenge as well as an opportunity: authors rarely discuss how the applications they have used were integrated into practice effectively and it can be hard for teachers to know which of the many options available would be best for them and their learners.

  1. 9.     Untethered Learning

We know that the circumstances of learning make a great difference to the efficacy of learning.  The people, places, and things with which learners interact are crucial elements in their developing understanding of knowledge and skills. Does the mobility of the iPad offer great opportunities for learners and their teachers to build meanings and experiences across different locations? Could the portability of devices like the iPad also help to develop the coherence of the learner’s experience, which can in turn reinforce prior learning and create deeper understandings?

  1. 10.  A Platform for Future Technology

The constant updating of devices, such as the iPad is both a constraint and an enabler of their learning potential. It is clearly a constraint, because of the cost implications of constantly upgrading. Could it also be an enabler, because frequent upgrading provides the possibility to use the latest technology hardware and software features, such as voice input and embedded cameras?

  1. 11.   Too New for us to Know?

Launched in 2010 with 7 million sales units, the iPad is predicted to increase to 60 million sales units in 2012, uptake of this device has grown very, very fast. In the US the combination of iPad and Android tablets is likely to outstrip PC sales soon. However, as highlighted at the start of this report, the evidence about learning with iPads is still variable in quality and not well integrated between research and practice.

  1. 12.  Another thorn in the side of Network Managers?

The level of resourcing for technical support in schools is often low and the prospect of multiple devices moving in and out of a school or college and then re-connecting to a network can be challenging. This can be made worse if the devices are not provided by the school or college and belong to learners, are of different makes and types and use different operating systems. Could iPads alleviate some of the difficulties here, because of the limited channel they provide between device and network? Or does the limited platform afforded by the iPad ‘dumb down’ learning possibilities?

What Next?

Significant decreases in cost may make iPads increasingly attractive to educational purchasers with limited funds. However, the rapid evolution of technologies, such as the iPad, make it difficult to predict their future impact on learning. Learning impact will depend upon the quality of the Apps teachers and learners use. It will also depend upon the extent to which the resources that accompany the iPad in supporting learning and teaching are taken into account when planning their introduction and recording their impact. Resources such as:

  • The people who support learning: teachers, peers, classroom assistants and technicians.
  • The places and the constraints associated with them. For example, the rules of the school and home constrain the manner in which the device can be used;
  • The other kit that is required, such as a wi-fi connection, or access to a printer.

Geek is chic, but engineers are awesome

I went to a fascinating roundtable event hosted by the Guardian. It was designed to fly the flag for ICT and Computer Science and to ensure that young people enjoy the benefits of excellent teaching and the improved job prospects that come with being tech savvy and able to create and produce digital content and applications as well as consume them. There will be a piece in the Educational Guardian about our discussions on 10 July, so I don’t want to jump the gun on that, but I do want to talk about an issue that intrigued me: the poor popularity ratings of engineers…

Read more on the Institute of Education Blog

Vygotsky, programming, computer gaming and fulfilling our potential

I had a fascinating discussion with Alasdair Blackwell from Decoded today about the kind of pedagogy that might ground his innovative approach to teaching coding. This conversation allowed me to indulge myself in talking about the work of Lev Vygotsky, a man who lived in Russia at the start fo the 20th century and from whom we can still learn a lot. So, what could his work have to say that could be relevant to ICT, Computer Science and the emerging technologies of today on games consoles, smart phones, ipads etc.? Quite a lot actually…

One of the key things Vygotsky’s work promoted is the idea that we should be more interested in a learner’s potential for future growth and achievement than we should be in their current ability to achieve, as measured, for example through many forms of assessment. We should be more interested in this potential because it is a greater predictor of a learner’s ability to develop further in the future and because we can help learners to do better by focusing upon this potential.

But how can we focus on this potential? We can do this by offering learners assistance so that we can see how much they can achieve with this assistance. The more learners  achieve with assistance, the greater their potential for the future. The idea is that as the assistance is removed, the learner moves on to the next challenge. So what has this got to do with emerging technologies?

Well, consider the types of popular application that offer an adaptive learning experience, for example Manga High if these adaptive ‘engines’ were powered by data bout how well their users had dealt with challenges beyond their current ability and how well they had taken best advantage of any hints, tips and assistance available to them, then they would be better predictors of a learner’s potential and they may also be even better at extending learners to build on their current understanding and progress to a greater extent. The idea that being given assistance to achieve is important for learning and development must of course be tempered with the knowledge that this assistance must be sensitively faded so that the learner can do it alone and then move onto the next challenge when the help and assistance must be ramped up. This idea of offering and withdrawing assistance in a manner that is suited to a learner’s needs is what top teachers achieve and it is what emerging technology can also enable. This is applicable not just to games and adaptive system like, but also to technologies that support collaborative learning, such as (add links). These technologies are great for young learners who find them deeply motivating, but left to their own devices learning for most young people is unlikely to move beyond the relatively pedestrian social activities that are fun, but that don’t stretch them to fulfill their potential. Of course, with the help of a teacher or a friend who knows a bit more they can achieve a great deal more, using the technologies that they already own and use. (see the evidence for this in these papers). What does this mean in practical terms for people who are using or designing technologies and applications? It means that learners need to be constantly challenged to achieve things beyond their own individual ability and then given some assistance to help them achieve success. This assistance might come in the form of hints and tips and feedback built into the activity or application, or it might come from other learners, teachers, parents friends, whatever the sources of the help, the important thing is that it is gradually and sensitively removed, so that the learner develops to their full potential. games that challenge you to take on the next level of difficulty and allow you to take advantage of hints and tips to be successful. If these games measured the efficiency with which their players used those hints and tips to achieve success they could tailor the levels of difficulty the user is challenged to take on in order to maximise the extension of their learning potential. and then extent to which users in the potential of a learner to achieve something that challenges them than we should be in their ability to achieve something on their own.