I've had a bit of time to think about the reaction to my appearance on the media last week where I was discussing the extended Dr Kawashima intervention that I am carrying out in four local authorities throughout Scotland after the Easter Break. An intervention funded by Learning and Teaching Scotland through their Consolarium initiative.
Supportive texts received immediately after my appearance included:
"Press the red button to go interactive? I did this and selected the translate from Dundonian option." Stuart Lennie
"Megastar! Stay on and audition for the part of Nancy with Graham Norton!" Con Morris
In case you missed it here is a clip posted by Ewan McIntosh (copyright of the BBC) of one of the discussions that I had on BBC Breakfast:
Michele Ledda from the Manifesto Group said on the programme that computer games were "harmless enough and useful". However, he did not think they had a place in the class and that there was a crisis of authority because people like me are suggesting that new technologies such as games do have a valid and important role to play in teaching and learning. He also made light of continued attempts to investigate a variety of ways in which we can help maximise learners full potential. His reference to fish oil, which apparently is good for the brain, and then his bizarre reference to snake oil did not I feel aid his argument. One must remember that if you get snake oil on your DS then it will invalidate the warranty!
Before the chat with Michele Ledda there was another chat with a gentleman called David Perks who is physics teacher in London.
David seemed to be suggesting that we were saying that school was boring and that this was part of the problem. I can't ever remember saying that in any context whatsoever and I was perplexed as to why he would say this when he really did not appear to know very much at all about the work that we have been doing. I think we both agreed that, as I said, good teachers will use good resources. The only difference is that it appears that I am prepared to explore non-conventional ways of engaging the already engaged but more importantly those learners whose potential is not in any way realised because the existing model does not work for them. Have a look at David Muir's post about this discussion.
I thought that 'Real Education' was the business that I am in until I heard what this lady was proposing and I then realised that I probably wouldn't be allowed in. It seems we need to go back to 'old-fashioned ways' of teaching and not to confuse matters with nonsense such as games. Her idea was to run Saturday classes where flash cards could be used to help children learn. Dearie dearie me, as I said at the time 'The past is like a foreign country, people do things differently there." (Opening line from the Go-Between by L.P Hartley...a fantastic book with Julie Christie in the film!!!) We can't afford to live in the past and we must look to the present and the future to ensure that pupil's experiences are relevant, effective, challenging and above all worth coming to school for.
However, the comment that I feel disappointed me the most came in the BBC Scotland investigation that Ken MacDonald did. I thought it was generally an excellent piece; well-balanced, well-researched and thoughtful except I feel for the comment made by Professor James Logie, a neuroscientist from Edinburgh University. He stated that what concerns him is that we see this as a 'panacea to cure all ills'. Again, I ask...where and when have I or any of my colleagues who are looking at the role of new technologies in teaching and learning ever made such a statement. It is all about appropriateness of the resource and how teachers use them effectively. At the end of every presentation that I make about my work I say that we are not suggesting that this is a panacea for everything but that it is yet another way that teachers may package the curriculum, if they feel that it is appropriate for the learners in their class. Again, I state that good teachers use good resources!!!
Overall the feedback has been excellent in terms of the interest in the project but also in terms of the enquiries from many other schools about what we are doing and how we plan to do it. It seems that other people want to try a similar thing...
I don't wish to appear as if I can't take criticism, that certainly is not the case as debate is what helps people grow. I just despair at an attitude that is still out there that we should continue with how we currently do things and that if anyone comes along with an idea that maybe comes from a leftfield, that has shown some interesting results and has resonated with teachers and pupils then the kneejerk reaction from many people is to knock it.
I'm really looking forward to carrying out my extended Kawashima intervention and to see what the results show. Who knows? If they do indicate real impact then we really will have something to debate but if it doesn't then it shouldn't stop us from exploring new ideas...should it?
A particularly interesting session was delivered by Paul Hodgkinson and Philip Smith from Durham County Council. They were talking about the impact that the introduction of wireless PDAs had on learning and attitudes to learning in some of their schools. The showed a video of the children using the devices and this video had pupil, teacher, headteacher and parent voices talking about why they felt these technologies had a place in the classrooms and homes of today.
You can access the report that has been written about this via this link. I'm sure it will make for excellent reading particularly in view of the emphasis their seemed to be on re-engaging disaffected learners and building bridges between school and the home. One final thing that caught my eye was that teacher comment on children's work/performance was spoken and recorded through the on-board microphone and then bluetoothed (is that a verb?) to the pupils PDA.
...and one more final point. In the question and answer session one lady asked about the dangers of this wireless technology being used in school. One of the speakers said that as an industry they were very conscioius of this area nd were guided by the Stewart Report etc. I look forward to finding out more about this isue when Mike Repacholi of Rome University delivers his talk about this very issue.
At the Handheld Learning conference in London last week I listened to Steven Heppell's keynote. Very interesting and thought provoking yet again. He played a clip of him extolling the virtues of computer games and learning. Again, he talked about what he had observed when watching children/learners play computer games:
a range of problem solving techniques spontaneously and implicitly occurring
how these contexts for learning extended and challenged learners
how self-esteem was enhanced when learners achieved in the game
The very interesting thing about this part of his talk was when he revealed that the clip was from 1991!
He then went on to show a number of examples from the Be Very Afraid site. This is something to see in terms of what is happening with new technologies, including games, now! Take a look at these two P.5/6 girls talking about their technology project. Look at how confident they are in terms of the vocabulary they use. Digital Natives right enough!
Newsweek has just published an article that talks about how learners can be encouraged to problem solve, to collaborate, to be challenged by computer games contexts and how their self-esteem can be enhanced. Is it a case of, yeah we already know this or is the momentum gathering pace and power? I tend to think it's the second of the two. The steady drip drip of the games in education lobby is making inroads into what is and what will happen in schools...
It's amazing the people you meet in the education business and particularly at conferences. I was sitting blogging in one of the breakout rooms at Handheld Learning 06 yesterday when I got chatting to this guy, Renaldo Lawrence.
We got talking about Flash and and I told him that I liked to dabble in it and that I had taught undergraduate teaching students how to begin using it. We had a look at my Game for Going Native article on the LTS website and then he showed me his Flash stuff from his website www.rllearning.com.
It turned out that Renaldo was from South Carolina in the USA but that he made his life over in England and was a teacher at St John the Baptist school in Woking.
It seems that Renaldo is very keen to get in to the Flash training market and his site is rather cool in terms of how he has nicely packaged together a range of learning materials within the Flash interface. What really appealed to me though was the fact that he has packaged up a number of his learning materials so that they can be downloaded in mp4 format to the Sony PSP. This seemed to have been quite a common thread in this conference. The ability that games devices such as the PSP and the DS have as storage devices or as web browsers.
This helps when promoting consoles in education because the more than just gaming argument can be pushed. But hey, what is there more than gaming?!;)
This morning I went to the Intuitive Media presentation about Superclubs. This proved to be very interesting as it was beginning to focus on how the Superclub community was being made available not only on traditional PC/laptop interfaces but also to mobile devices.
What really got me interested was the short input form James Blomfield (above) from Capel-Le-Ferne Primary School in Folkestone. His school is using a number of handheld devices to facioiatet access th Superclubs for the pupils. Devices discused included the Nintendo DS lite and the PSP. Again here is an example of how these games devices can be used for more than Trauma Centre or The Sims2.
Wirless connectivity for the PSP is built in but you need to buy the Opera browser for the DS.