Shouldn’t EdTech be for everyone?

I spent a day at BETT 2016 (a showcase for Educational Technology) on Friday.  It is about 14 years since I last attended, back then Interactive Whiteboards were just about to become mainstream.  Haven’t things changed and hasn’t it grown!

The sheer size of the exhibition, now at The Excel Centre, was unwieldy.  The layout was like a rabbit warren of tunnels between a mixture of massive corporate displays and pop-up micro efforts with a banner printed last week in Staples.  All of them potentially interesting but unfortunately distracting and completely unnavigable, even with the help of the not so handy map which unfolded to a size big enough to power a yacht if the wind caught it.

Then there were all the people.  Not the people visiting, although there were plenty of them, but the people selling – there were hundreds of them! Many of them seemed to be ‘Exhibition Specialists’ who had probably been selling sails (the size of my map) at The Boat Show last week.  Their sole purpose was to scan you, well your badge code, with their iPad, iPhone, iPod or (if they were a corporate stand) a special scanner.  They must have been on scanning targets or bonuses because once they had your precious e-mail address they just wanted to move onto the next person.  It was noticeable when you spoke to someone with a real, rather than a mercenary, passion for their product as you had to remind them to scan your badge.

On top of all of that were all the stages and presentations, I counted at least 10 presentation areas all with different timetables and none of them with a single seat by the time I got there.

However, I loved it!  Lots of people were genuinely enthusiastic, passionate or even evangelical about education and how we might be able to make it better using technology.  People had come from all over the world to share, learn and try to improve the education of children.  I saw some ground breaking technology which was exciting, some brilliant ideas which were inspiring and a lot of stuff I wish I had access to, let alone my students.

Despite my grumbling above, this is my real issue – it is clear that even within this country, even within the state sector, even within counties and postcodes, there are schools who have and schools (and children) who have not.  Clearly this isn’t fair or right but as I left I wondered why?

I teach Primary and we know we have always been a poor relation to Secondary Schools when it comes to technology but it was clear that the differences within the Primary sector are huge.  I know all schools circumstances, budgets and cohorts are different but that in itself doesn’t explain the massive differences.  Why are some schools thinking that they are on the cutting edge with a suite of 30 (24 working) Windows based PC’s which will only connect to the internet if you turn them on a few at a time whilst other schools have sets of iPads or 1:1 chromebooks?

I stumbled into a presentation by a Primary Head, I didn’t catch his name because, predictably, I missed the start.  He was the answer to my question.  3 or 4 years ago they had invested in iPads – 1:1 I think.  There didn’t seem to be anything special about his school, no additional funding, average cohort, just a ‘normal’ Primary School.  The only difference was the fact that they had someone passionate about using technology.  Rather handily, it just so happened he was the Head Teacher but I realised it could be anyone, it could be me.  I am not a Head Teacher but I am passionate that technology can make teaching and learning better for our teachers and our children and so I want to make sure that Edtech is for everyone.

How is this going to happen, I’m not sure yet!  It may well depend on what is contained in the many e-mails I will be receiving this week from all the people who scanned my badge on Friday.  I am sure it will start small but I know that unless people with a passion for getting technology into the classroom do it then no one will, we certainly cannot wait for the ‘powers that be’ to do it, so the children in my school will miss out and be at a disadvantage.

I will be writing about this much more over the weeks, months and possibly years.  Any advice, anecdotes or warnings will be gratefully received.

Reasons to be cheerful: 1, 2, 3?

Christmas is now a distant memory – lost in the seemingly inescapable flood of teaching, planning, marking, assessment, meetings, etc. Now we are immersed it would be easy to be dragged under, especially at this time of year. Therefore, if we are to stand any chance of surviving until half term, we need to focus on some reasons to be cheerful.  If not for yourself, do it for your families, colleagues and the children you teach!

  1. You know you can do it!  You survived last term and that was a marathon, this term is just a sprint by comparison.  Plus, if you haven’t moved school or anything, you know the children and the systems and so it will be easier.
  2. You are doing something potentially life changing everyday – educating and preparing children’s minds for their future life.  There aren’t many people who can say their job is as important as that, it is a privilege to be given this responsibility.
  3. Teaching is hard, really hard, harder than anyone outside realises.  But if you can keep your head above water, develop strategies to cope, improve and then flourish you will be very sort after.  I am not so short sighted that I don’t see the problems caused by the recruitment crises but we are looking for positives here.  If you are good at this job you are in a strong position and that isn’t true in every industry.

A-school-closed-sign-001So they are my reason’s to be cheerful, I didn’t even mention the fact it might snow next week or that we get (for now) a 6 week break from the classroom every summer.  What are your reasons to be cheerful in the depressing depths of January?

Will you sleep soundly tonight?

January is strange in schools. You should be relaxed and refreshed after 2 weeks off but the reality is a crowd of zombies.

OK, you have had a break from teaching but: entertaining, late nights, perhaps a little more alcohol than you would normally have and everything else that the Christmas & New Year period entails hardly make it a holiday.

On top of all that there is the insomnia. The night before I go back to school I always worry but after Christmas it is worse. I do not think I am alone!

Why?

Firstly, remember we worry because we care! We want the best for the children we teach and losing some sleep is a symptom of this.

Your feet haven’t touched the ground for the past 2 weeks, opening the laptop was never going to happen, despite your best intentions. Planning while the in laws/neighbours/random strangers (delete as appropriate) are being entertained is generally frowned upon, so you are completely unprepared. You haven’t got the excitement or adrenaline you get in September when everything seems new, you know what to expect and that might not be a good thing!

But worse than this is the expectations. This is the term where you (or the children you teach) need to make progress! There is nowhere to hide, you have had a term to get to know them, mould them and build the foundations – now you need to show what a great teacher you are! Is this a pressure you are putting on yourself, does it come from your SLT or is it the current culture in Education? Probably a mix of all 3 but unless you have a crystal ball I’m sure that assessing without levels has only added to the pressure.

Add to all of this the knowledge that the children you are going to try to teach are also going to be a crowd of zombies, how could they have recovered already from staying up to see the New Year in? It is no surprise that you can’t sleep – neither can I! There isn’t anything you can do about it, just rest in the knowledge that you are not alone and that in a few days the chaos of Christmas will be long forgotten.

How do we cope with everything else? We will deal with that, just subscribe to this blog for thoughts, insights, resources and more.

Despite all of this, my worst fear for tomorrow is tinsel! Is there anything more depressing than tinsel in January? I hope I remembered to take it all down – did you?