What's all this then?

I tweet too much. So I needed somewhere else to start storing all the words. This is it. Think of it as the external hard drive for my thoughts.

I don't have an obesssion, a dream, a fixation or a hook, so don't be expecting a focus here. It's like great big lumps of my twitterings. You may see teaching stuff, rants, maternal anxiety and occasional sojourns away from reality.

Anyway, I like a nice chat so we should talk. By we, I of course mean me...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

An Apple for the teacher. Please.

I’m a little uncomfortable about what I’m going to advocate here, as it feels a bit like brand endorsement. I am not a fan of branding, especially around kids. No, not branding as in cattle marking; although that is also a very bad idea around kids. I just don’t like children being viewed as a marketing opportunity, they’re not cynical enough.

However: I think all schools should use Apple.  There, I said it.  Now I’d better explain it.

Schools are essentially slow moving things, and technology is a fast moving thing.  This often means that schools lag behind current developments a ridiculous amount. I mean, there are teachers out there who still think that “doing a powerpoint” is the cutting edge, whereas most private companies are encouraging people to move away from powerpoint and really engage with their audience, something that teachers already do brilliantly. But we were blindsided by the arrival of interactive whiteboards and whizzy slides and forgot that these tools cannot replace a charismatic, knowledgeable expert at the helm.

The relationship between primary schools and technology is always an uneasy one. Anyone remember the NOF training? Money spent trying to update teachers’ IT knowledge, and oh how we all hated its misguided efforts.  Then came Computers for Schools vouchers and as a result millions of digital microscopes serve as bookends in stock cupboards up and down the country.

ICT lessons themselves are too often about teaching processes, learning how to use equipment. I used to spend at least 10min of each precious half hour lesson reminding children how to save work; a route so convoluted that it was like talking them through defusing a bomb. And there was still always That Child who cut the red wire.

And don’t get me started on RM Window Boxes (http://www.rm.com/generic.asp?cref=GP1225202). A “child friendly” interface aimed at simplifying things for primary aged children. Children don’t generally need their IT simplified, so who’s that for? Never mind “Number Magic”, just let them use Excel and stop messing about.

It sometimes feels like schools just aren’t getting it.

Which is where Apple comes in. They have always been about the interface, or more importantly the removal of the interface. This is the aim of good technology, that there is no barrier to its use. Perfectly intuitive technology is the Holy Grail of work psychologists and Apple is its Champion.

Recently I was coveting an iPad in the phone shop, and when I turned round dd1 was cheerfully using one to play the piano... “Mummy, I REALLY want an iPad”. She can dream on, but it does sum up what IT should do in primary schools. It should enable children, give them options, support them. With no-interface technology we can get on with teaching children to become rigorous and analytical appliers of technology, not just competent users of Windows.

It's not all schools, some get it perfectly. Want to see what an iPod Touch can do? Look at @ebd35’s blog (http://ebd35.wordpress.com/). A boy with no special love of writing created this:

Isn’t it brilliant? This is what happens when we let technology support the learning, not the other way round.

Please may I have an iPhone now?


  1. Thanks for the mention of my writing star ;o)
    Agree completely about Apple products in the classroom.

    Using iPod touches have transformed my classes engagement with learning... now that can't be a bad thing can it?

  2. Everyone should read your writing star!

    I love the way you use iPods, they don't replace you as a teacher,they enable children to choose and use ICT effectively.

    Unlike those new adverts for DS's in the classroom. Again, don't get me started...

  3. That would be a lot of cash though... I'm not a Windows user so I can't comment on its ease of use. What's your own experience of classroom IT?

  4. I should have said, I don't actually own any Apple products (yet...), I just think they fulfil a need in schools.

    I've been ICT co-ordinator in various settings, from the days when we just had 1 computer in the classroom, to managing a wireless network. I've had other roles, but managing IT in school is the one that caused me the most stress.

    I also like the ease of integration you get with Apple, as hardware/software issues are such a headache in schools. Nothing like standing in front of 200 children in an assembly with a laptop that won't connect to make you sweat.

    And, all ICT in schools is frighteningly expensive. That's why making sure it's accessible and easy to use is vital. We need our money's worth.


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