After years of ensuring that phones stayed in the kids pockets I realised we might just be fighting the wrong battle, the wave of mobile technology was crashing and if you cant beat them!
Obviously I'm not suggesting that we let the kids play fruit ninja all day but it is time to recognise the awesome potential here and I have a real bug bear about the amount of time spent on social media etc compared to study time.
It started with a Psychology twitter feed, GraveneyP, I'm such a geek and was always going in Monday morning raving about an article over the weekend and telling the kids to try to dig out the article from their recycling bins (if their parents were Guardian readers!). Suddenly I could share there and then, whilst being able to add a comment about why they should read or watch whatever.
The kids went for it and most interestingly they started thinking about their own on-line presence, which is something the staffroom worry about, these kids can share too much. I wrote to twitter re some kind of school mode for additional protection but heard nothing and settled for giving out the twitter teen safety policy. It spread and soon RS, History, Philosophy and Theology were all tweeting away.
And it was fine, yes teachers tweeted and the world did not end!
Next flipped classrooms, my 'Super Teacher', friend in another school had been flipping GCSE Sociology SOCINSKISMASH and his enthusiasm was catching I tried out flipping one unit of Psychology on the Graveney Psychology youtube channel to support their revision, with a view to flipping that unit the following academic year.
The app project started as it just had to be done, seeing how much educational apps have helped my own children there is no going back! I was also trying to win over a new and rather scary head of department. I know a lot of developers and was incredibly lucky to have a talented friend of the family who is interested in getting into educational apps and also had a child with SEN. He was up for being a silent partner in the experiment and we were off.
I had helped run a careers psychometric testing project with savilleconsulting and completed the BPS aptitude and occupational testing course and the potential for testing on line and giving insightful feedback was eye opening. Its definitely something to look into more but will need to be saved for later.
So that was my start, twitter> flipping> apps and I'm now working with my super teacher friend on a flipped classroom/ MOOC app. Collaboration is clearly the way forward and if your a teacher who would like to make the content for an app contact www.madebyeducators.com as this is where my projects have lead me!
As a relative newcomer to monetisation in education I do find this fascinating. Teaching was always a vocation for me and it was a great bonus that I got paid to do the thing I loved. Now my energy had moved to the educational potential of mobile devices I find the bills will still need to be paid. So can we find an ethical balance?
In App payment
We are working on ios so I don't have to worry so much about accidental purchase (so long as parents have fixed settings see previous post). But still it does not feel totally right, people will think they are downloading a full app and I know I feel a bit cheated when this pops up (often when I have already paid out a bit!).
Having read around, the bonus is that you rank higher as it looks free and involves only one download, but its a big download as your effectively downloading two apps.
Free with ads
Come on they are kids, I hate my kids being sold to! but it is tempting to have educational ad's on the 'A' level range as could help older students (16-18) identify other resources.
Free with ad's until in-app purchase,
Supposed to be the max dosh option but again not keen on ad's to young children.
Luckily our apps do not involve analytics much further than how long sectional are played, and if it crashes, ill leave that can of worms for others.
Having worked on some of the Pupil Premium initiatives (additional funding for vulnerable students) and having used Flurry for the first time this week I can really see where analytics in schools can go and its really exciting!
My old school is inviting consultants in to tackle the stats mound which has inevitably raised anxiety in the staffroom. It wont be long before we have some form of flurry for schools (probably already have several!) and it will inevitably lead to some of the same debates on the use of data that face facebook or google have triggered. But knowing educators the way I do it will definitely be used for good and could potentially make an enormous difference, allowing us to be more strategic with resources to focus support where it is needed most.
Rumours of the demise of the cursive style of writing are greatly exaggerated, many educators are moving back to 'joined-up', writing, often as the first style of lettering taught.
The cursive style has some significant advantages for Dyslexic students and is recommended by both the British Dyslexia Association and the International Dyslexia Association.
The key advantages to this system are:
The role of education is to light a fire, and too often we as educator find ourselves 'filling a bucket'. We chose our subjects because we are passionate about them and one of the best ways to ignite that passion in our students and bring them into our subjects world view is to tweet. As a Psychology and Sociology teacher this was particularly easy as even the morning news often has social and ethical implications.
We had the experimental twitter feed as part of the school improvement plan which gave me some protection if anything went wrong. I trialled it for two months before we opened it up to the whole department and by then several other departments had set up their own feeds. I gave all students copies of the twitter teen safety policy and kept our feed private, locked to those not approved. This might seem paranoid to those outside the world of education but duty of care comes first.
The outcomes were overwhelmingly positive with students often referencing articles I had tweeted. Although it would have been valuable to involve student in tweeting this felt wrong and we kept it one way only. We made it clear that we did not follow back and would rather pull out our own eye lashes that look at their tweets. But the fact that they knew we could was probably no bad thing.
Aside form supporting wider reading/ viewing this experiment had another excellent outcome. Students started to consider their online presence more carefully. We discussed the fact that anyone could see what they were tweeting and some students looked a little concerned. We have a generation who's comments will follow them into their professions and we as educators have a responsibility to teach them how to manage their social media use.
When I mentioned using apps to support the learning of my AS class the response from staff was mixed, from a 'nice idea but they aren't allowed phones in class', to some proper enthusiasm from senior management.
Although many UK primaries are embracing the touch screen revolution Secondaries are in a very different place with most state schools yet to have purchased a single ipad. There are many reasons for this, primaries are smaller which in my opinion allows change at a more rapid pace, apps for younger children are just easier to make, (even we succumbed to the phonics/ handwriting lure!) and initiatives do tend to roll up from KS1. Its not just money, ipads are expensive but there is money in the system and there is enormous potential for social media to help children under the pupil premium budget.
There is some fear within the profession of technology replacing the teacher and this can be a real blocker. We will always need teachers but we could be making better use of technology!
If your school is not yet ipad'ed up do an audit of the classes technology resources at home and try an experimental lesson, students can share whet they have and it might just be the spark your school needs.
I am lucky enough to experience both worlds, working in state educational institutions and the less formal, more explicitly creative tech cultures based around silicon roundabout.
Needless to say they are worlds apart. School management models the very traditional work environment and the offices of Moshi Monsters model a magical playground.
Clearly there are innovators in both cultures, but are they nurtured in both? I have worked with stunning leaders who motivate, inspire, encourage and are open to innovation in education. However even the most exceptional leaders in education lead immense hierarchical institutions. It might be my social psychology take, but one can see the faculty arena as various pressure groups advocating for their team and subjects. Add significant pressure to this mix e.g. funding cuts, performance related pay mixed with the infighting not uncommon in the profession, and this arena can quickly turn into an unproductive battle ground. The strict hierarchical nature of these systems mean that one persons initiative can be seen as threatening to others, non conformity can come at a high price.
Our future managers in teaching will be those who have been resilient in these environments and most likely have a very different skill set to the creatives around the google campus, (who by this point would most likely have innovated off to somewhere less stressful). Flipped classrooms, MOOCs and bespoke learning environments are just the beginning of technology driving the future of education. These innovations will need to come from the people who are currently at the chalk face.
I hate to pose a problem without offering some kind of solution, and I think a few colourful bean bags and a slide to class are unlikely to cut it in the staff room, but we need to do something quickly as schools are falling fast behind the pace of change.
Organisational assessment linked to talent management systems in schools could help identify and protect those who don't have the skills to force their ideas into the limelight. It can also prevent the burnout and excesses I have seen time and time again squander and squash talent until it conforms, explodes or leaves.
Change and innovation is most effective when it comes from within, so we need to enable teachers to lead the charge.
As we build more motivators/ rewards into a games can we also ask more? I know from being in the classroom that the real learning happens during 'flow' (yes my parents were hippies!). During flow time stops and nothing else exists, its when we are totally absorbed in what we are doing. Will we create 'flow' opportunities if our activities are not challenging and the rewards come too easily? Really hard to pitch!
A simple example is do we demand that a child completes a letter perfectly 3 times before they get the reward activity, or would this put them off? As a educator I believe challenge is motivating, as an inexperienced producer (I have no idea what to call myself as wearing so many hats!), I want to reduce risk and avoid putting people off by being demanding.
1. Test it out, we did and surprise surprise children are all different! (there is 'no average', see previous post).
2. Offer 'challenge mode', so that children/ parents/ teachers can set the bar a little higher at times (differentiate). Another step towards bespoke learning environments.
This is very much an asperational goal for MBE. There is no 'average' learner so attempting to design for them is futile. How to personalise? Dinosaur letters has some differentiation on styles of letters. The next generation might identify ones it took more attempts to get right?
We are now moving back to looking at the exam range and plan to take another step towards personalised learning. We are planning to use 3 modes: quiz, play all and personalised where once answered correctly questions are removed and the student is left to work through those they got incorrect. I'm always telling the kids to identify what they don't know. This might help.
So, along with the rest of the world I'm a big fan of Ted talks and recently watched Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud.html. I was not sure I agreed with him whole heartedly that children just need to be left to it, e.g it would be an exciting challenge for one of my own children but a disaster for my other child. Also it makes loads of sense for problem solving activities and projects but that's not the only skill we need to teach. Many children would be lost in self organised learning environments (SOLE) and do need more than a little support.
We had a mega play date later that day which was a great mix of age and ability so (with parental permission) I tested out our new writing game.
It was fascinating, the older ones took an instant role as teacher there was excellent collaborative learning between children, even those who were not natural 'join in' types. Also the children were able to select their own level of challenge (easier looking letters, cursive v non cursive etc) and get support when needed. A clear vote for both SOLE and bespoke learning environments.