What the hell is going on with computers in schools?

31 March 2010

Sonia Livingstone, an academic at the London School of Economics, gave an interesting talk at a Becta conference pointing out that there are several problems with using computers in schools. Firstly, she observed how many pupils feel that the internet can be a very unreliable source of information, not feeling certain that they were getting the real deal. Secondly, she observed pupils footling around for far too long trying to get over technical problems before learning anything; going to the wrong websites, not getting software to work, watching computers crash, waiting around to find out how to work programmes. Thirdly, she asked the vital question: what is the PURPOSE of digital learning? Should we have a top-down model whereby we, the teachers, have a set body of knowledge that we want to impart or should be asking pupils to construct their own bodies of knowledge? A lot of what she said chimed with me, having been on the wrong end of failing technology in the classroom. The key question is: WHY are we using computers in the classroom? My audio guides to 19th century poetry use an “enlightenment” model of knowledge in that I, the teacher, am saying I have access to the right information, now use the technology to access that traditional body of knowledge more easily.

In the following talk, Katie Bell at Stardoll, talked about her 54million users, trying to defend the educational value of Stardoll. Annette France at Chipping Campden School talked eloquently about the rigid assessment systems which hinder digital learning. Adrian Hon, at Six to Start, one of the world’s leading cross media games companies, talked about how parents shouldn’t be so paranoid about letting their children play games and go on social networking sites.

Fourteen schools were involved in the day, providing their tweets on what was going on at the conference. Wyberton School looked interesting in the projects it was doing with literacy and ICT.

On a rather nightmarish Speed Dating exercise after the lecture, David Wortley, of the Serious Games Institute, directed me to Tim Rylands and his successful game Myst which appears to teach literacy skills and entertain.  I also met a member of Nesta who directed me to a new virtual reality way of learning called Robots and Avatars.

1 comment

  1. I guess it is all about balance. During discussion time with my class today, in responding to this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_9360000/newsid_9367300/9367362.stm they were sensible enough to recognise that too much of a good thing leads to diminishing returns. Ok, I’m paraphrasing here – they are 9 after all but that was the gist. Computers provide a hook for many types of learners, so I guess it is down to the teacher to decide how to get the most learning out of it.

    Recently, I was lucky enough to go on a training course with Tim Rylands whose demonstration of the use of Myst was compelling. I have been running boys writing booster for Y6 boys and look forward to using Myst as a stimulus.

    from Russell

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