Archive for August, 2010

Too much info

August 10, 2010

As I have got underway unloading my brain into the Broadie Associates website, it has really re-inforced just how diverse the ways of using ICT to improve education are. There is just so much that can be said it’s small surprise that it is all a bit too mind-boggling for many teachera.

This was an absolutely key insight when we first set up the European Education Partnership. We had monthly meetings to try to work out how best to use the E.E.P. to stimulate the development of ICT for learning across Europe. We had some of the most experienced people from the leading companies involved, but it took us the best part of a year to work out that the problem was not a lack of information about the benefits of ICT in education.

The problem was too much information.

The decision makers, both at policy level and education institution level, were getting so many different views about how best to use ICT that they really couldn’t see the wood for the trees. They didn’t know where to start. That was what led us into the various analyses we made such as value-add from ICT and ICT-rich pedagogy. There had to be a simple starting point for the leaders. Even so, we couldn’t get the areas of value-add down to less than eleven no matter how hard we tried. In the ICT-rich pedagogy analysis we were absolutely determined to keep the change-statements to a single page. We had to reduce the point-size as we couldn’t get the teachers’ change statements to fewer than 17 – each statement justified it’s place. And even working on the one or two statements a teacher might choose as most relevant, could take a whole year. This is a massive change that education is undergoing.

This diversity puts a real premium on schools and teachers having a clearly worked-out vision – an educational vision not a technical vision. Unless they have some sense of where they are trying to get to in changing learning processes and interactions, they will have no idea what to ignore and what to look at. They will drown in the too much info problem.

Of course you do need some experience of how ICT can change things in order to decide what to do, but the starting point should not mention ICT at all. Look at the statements in the Value-add analysis. A statement like “improve communication and collaboration” or “increase access to resources” is a human statement. When I taught in Skipton the problem was increasing communication and collaboration, as many of the kids had to leave immediately at the end of the last lesson in order to get home right up the dale. In Sheffield all the kinds were within a few minutes of the school and saw lots of each other after classes, but most of the homes were very resource poor.

The key differentiator between those schools now improving rapidly through good use of ICT and those slipping behind is the vision of the Head and senior leadership team.

Who recognises the impact of ICT in education?

August 3, 2010

It’s good to see the Times Educational Supplement reporting on ICT in schools (magazine 30 july – ‘Byte the dust’) and I have a deal of respect for Peter Banks who is achieving great things in his school (I’ve never met Roger Mitchell, no doubt the same applies) but I can’t help feeling they could have put over a much more positive view of the impact of ICT. Maybe they did and it is Nick Morrison the reporter who is to blame. If the leaders in the use of ICT in education can’t paint the picture of really powerful impact, then as a community we are in trouble.

So what should have been said?

– Visualisers. Maybe Broadgreen did buy too early but maybe their lack of success with them is because they are a secondary school and the visualier is an ideal tool for primary, not so much in secondary. Go and look at the visualiser forum for loads of examples. It’s a fabulous tool through which pupils can digitise their concrete work in order to share it with their families online, it is great for all kinds of assessment for learning purposes and it turns teachers into creators of digital resources they can share with colleagues.

– Integrated Learning Systems. I know reporters like to concentrate on bad news, but how about a mention of the SAM Learning systems whose use has been extensively researched by the Fischer Trust and the positive benefits clearly shown.

– Registration by card-readers. Yes, lots of pounds wasted, but not the fault of technology but a failure to think through what the pupils might do to subvert the system. But if you look at another system to aid school organisation, cashless catering, considerable benefits. Or how about the schools saving £10,000+ annually because they have moved lots of paper into digital form on the school’s learning platform?

– Too few books and too much ICT? How about the teacher who has created a step-change in the amount of reading her class is doing by getting the children posting their book reviews online in the school’s platform. It’s not an either-or question, it’s how ICT can complement the good things in long-standing educational approaches.

– Interactive whiteboards as white elephants? Well any elephant is a white elephant if you can’t drive it and make it work for you. Is education to remain stuck in a textual and paper world when the rest of the world is becoming highly visual, animated and digital. If we don’t have ability to display digital in classrooms teachers will be missing out on massive opportunities to enhance their teaching and their pupils’ learning. And starting to use digital resources is just the first step to using them interactively and collaboratively with the pupils.

I suppose Nick Morrison’s final comments say it all, “…. it may be time to question whether ICT is really all it is cracked up to be.” Nearly ten years ago, just as one example, the European Education Partnership ( anlaysed where the value-add in education comes from with ICT. I suggest it may be time to questions whether reporters and anyone else who cannot give a clear statement of why ICT is vital should be doing better research.

Or maybe it is that we as an ‘ICT in Education community’ have failed so far to express the benefits clearly enough. That’s why I have decided to dedicate the Broadie Associates website to bringing together the stories and the evidence (