Some common sense things... knew already

(but no wonder the students get a bit disenchanted)

On the day we didn't get through all these but we covered a fair few...

Process matters. How else can we produce formative assessment, or offer progression and continuity. Yet computers typically record product (an essay, a piece of research, an image). Help children to show their processes and draft work, display it, let them annotate their display work.

Look at the work on the school walls (little yellow post-it notes can work well for their annotations).

As soon as you enter a school's ICT area you will find either a lot of notices and posters saying "how to..." or a lot of notices and posters saying "Do not...". Which one encourages engagement, responsibility, creativity, interest and delight?

You know the answer, now audit the wall displays (the students can do it for you if you like).

When you were little and maybe just occasionally naughty you were probably (if you are old enough) made to sit and face a wall. This was a punishment. Now look at the computers in your school. Which way are they users facing? and this is supposed to be delightful?

You knew this. Now work out how to sort out the wires so that sociable computing does not electrocute anyone (hint plastic pipe works well, so do overhead mains sockets)

On the day a good question was asked here about surely he social activity is through the screen and so facing away from the class is less 'orrible. Sadly the community you get to through the screen is not - yet - that good and "friends collaborating side by side" still matter.

Children in your school do not bring pornography into assembly, or registration to dish out to their mates. But there is no "naughty words and pictures" filter on the school doors. They behave well because you have conventions of behaviour that govern their actions. Behind the bike sheds on the other hand...

This means that trying to rely on software or ISPs to filter out inappropriate stuff is preventing the children from developing appropriate behaviours and from negotiating behaviours with each other and with your colleagues. The siting of your computer screens and the rules you negotiate for their use will be crucial and are not something technology can help you with. Try the Tesco Schoolnet 2000 project for some good starting points for negotiation.

Common sense still works in cyberspace, luckily. Get discussing with the School Council.

On the day a good question was asked here about parents expectations - they expect us to be proactive in building walls of protection. However, my own view is that we must help them to see that negotiated 'contracts' help to limit behaviours and build awareness - this is important for parents as well as schools but schools may well need to work with parents on rebuilding their belef in their own common sense.

Teachers are learning professionals not technicians. This means that you need robust modern computers not discarded old tut that a "kind" local "benefactor" wants to unload on you. Say "NO" to secondhand computers unless they are giving you the techncian that goes with them. They are dumping them because they can afford to keep them - think about it. Check out what the Stevenson Report said about it.

Schools are where you come to steal computers not to dump them. Chant this mantra daily.

On the day a good question was asked here about whether old stuff was acceptable when (the example was a primary school) the school kit was older than the secondhand replacement. My own view is that two wrongs don't make a right but we also used this as a chance to explore the future which might see every child with a cheap personal computer - and intervention for the info-have nots - and the school with a relatively few high end workstations. We should probably not worry so much today about "how many" but about organiasation that will build a way through to that inevitable future.

There is no model of learning that suggest children learn effectively from watching passively, even when they can control the navigation and pace of what they watch. Learning requires doing, some mediation, a sense of progress,

You knew this. Now worry about how you give them a sense of audience for what they do.

A colleague sets a homework. Of the 32 students 15 brought in stuff they copied and pasted from a CD, 11 used the Internet, one did a screendump from Encarta and drew round the bit that mattered. 2 asked family, 3 forgot. What is wrong here, the students ("lazy bunch, never had it so good"), the technology ("should ban the damn things") or the task ("but Miss, I did what you asked...")?


If I gave you an axe and said "build me a boat" and gave someone else a fully equipped woodwork workshop and the same task I would expect a better boat from the latter. If I was trying to help them, comparing their efforts would be silly.

So, do you mark word processed work separate from hand written stuff? Do the exam boards? Please tell them.

On the day a good question was asked about the role of exams and A levels and the apparent misfit between what they assess and what we valu watching children use ICT - process, collaboration etc - and I tried to be reassuring that QCA certainly was interested enough in the problem to be trying some pilots of possible solutions with teachers, hopefully this year.

If your school was offered one free computer for every two children you might be intereeted. On the other hand your children will certainly have more than 50% ownership of computers (almost) where ever you are.

We told them to watch TV regularly when about 30% had TV sets. You probably remember the issues then, they are the same now.

How many of your music teachers do not have an instrument at home? Do I need to spell this out when every teacher is expected to teach with ICT? At least you might get the tax back if you buy one.

The only people who will lobby for this drink coffee with you every break. Write weekly and sweetly, with a standard letter.

Proprietary standards are designed to make money out of you and limit your choices. Data exchange migh adhere to protocols but there is no such thing as an enduring standard. If there was you would using a Spectrum, or CPM, or DOS, or an NTSC Videodisc player, or any of the other moment in time described as the standard, or the industry standard.

You knew this, but salespersons try to kid you you don't. Choice is an entitlement. Standisation is imposition. Ask yourself " what would Hitler have preferred?". Exactly.


©Ultralab 1999