Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

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BETT 2009 @ Olympia – seminar talk

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BETT is the world’s largest educational technology event (or so it says) and it’s certainly massive. After not attending for 2 years, I very happily spent the day there yesterday.  After queueing for 1 hour and 20 minutes (my bad luck the system had a bit of a breakdown and I was in a particularly bad queue, others were much luckier) I finally got in at about 11.45am and was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all. Stand after stand after stand of sales people hawking their wares, albeit in a very pleasant manner. I should have used the online interactive BETT route planner before I got there, but I hadn’t and so I just wandered around for 20 minutes and then decided to attend a seminar that had caught my eye:

25 years of ICT – what have we learned?

The speaker, Clare Johnson, was enthusiastic enough and a fervent advocate for the use of IT in the classroom. She underlined the importance of ownership when it came to kit, explaining how the electronic objects we use everyday (mobiles, laptops) become personalised possessions and that pupils work better if they too are allowed to develop a sense of ownership over their equipment, even if it is only for the duration of a school year. Fair point – I too treat my own and work computers as personal and would find it difficult to work in the same way if I had to share.  The independent is running an article on an initiative that promotes the same principle today. [Noteworthy is this supporting statement by a 10 year old pupil: “”It’s better than just doing it on paper, and you can save all of your work,” he says. “Pen and paper is just boring.”] But I would have liked her to suggest that an alternative to schools providing the kit for students might be for teachers to utilise much of the kit that students already own themselves. Of course there are still many students who do *not* have their own kit, who do not own a mobile or a home computer, but any alternative to buying yet more and more kit for every child should at least be explored. In the complimentary BETT guide in wednesday’s education supplement guardian, there was  an article asking “How green is my classroom?”

Making classrooms greener great – but hopefully not by way of bying new, “greener” kit and chucking out the old.

Clare Johnson ended her talk by complaining about the reality of student education, focusing on the statistic that despite the efforts of government iniatives to bring IT to schools, a far too high percentage of teaching/ learning is still done by “copying from books or the board”. She seemed really upset about it, but seemed to presuppose that this is a “bad thing”. But why is it bad? She didn’t reason the point other than by pointing out that outside of the classroom, children spend much time on social networking sites. Yes… but… when I was in school I spent much of my time outside the classroom sitting on swings or watching cartoons on television. This did not however help me in any way with my geography or maths.

I get Ms Johnson’s point, of course (are there better ways of engaging students in their learning than making them copy information from books?); yet something else rankled.  Effectively lambasting teachers for not using ICT creatively in their teaching, she made this point in the most archaic fashion. She delivered a 45 minute lecture to a silent audience, from a podium, supported only by a few powerpoint slides, crammed with text. Just like lecturers do all over the country. Isn’t there something about leading by example?


Written by Sonja Grussendorf

January 15, 2009 at 13:58

Posted in BETT, event

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