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Up in the clouds

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Blog - Up in the clouds

Wednesday 17 March 2010

I can remember, not so long ago, when teaching year 7 or year 8 students how to make a presentation on PowerPoint was exciting and novel for them.  Back in those days – and I am talking about 10 or so years ago – it was easy for an ordinary teacher to feel well ahead of students in IT expertise.  Primary schools often had only very basic computer facilities, and plenty of families had no computers at home.  It’s certainly different now.  As increasingly middle aged adults (dreadful term – still trying to avoid thinking of myself as one!) we have to work hard and concentrate till it hurts to keep up with teenagers on ICT.  It is as if they are natives of a country that we are recent immigrants into.  Like the children of foreigners in the UK who speak better English than their parents, even though their parents have lived here twice as long as their children have been alive!

Anyway, in the spirit of trying to keep up, I have been attempting to learn about ‘cloud computing’ recently.  I had visions of sitting on a white cloud with my laptop – computer heaven?  But no: I spend a lot of time drafting letters and documents which get emailed around various people until they are agreed by all involved.  I used to think that using ‘track changes’ was quite clever and sophisticated, but now we can apparently keep our draft documents on the web, via applications (or should  I say ‘apps’?) like GoogleDocs, so that all involved can work on them at the same time.  A sort of visual conference phone call, I suppose. 

And if you’re ahead of me and know all that already, what about iTunes U – yes, U – it’s a way of bringing university teaching into your iPod – or iPhone too, presumably – so that you can stay in bed all day and still hear your lectures.  Interesting to speculate how this might be applied to schools!

I was consoled, in this confusing jungle of ever-changing media – to read a study the other day about the effect of ICT on learning.  A certain amount of ICT integrated into learning raises performance beyond what is possible without the ICT.  But – and here’s the rub – if you continue to increase the amount of ICT in your teaching at a consistent rate, at a certain point performance falls, and continues to fall below the level you were at with no ICT at all.  So, in other words, some ICT is good for you, but too much is worse than none at all.  Makes sense really – you still need a teacher to guide you through it all, and if you just stick your students in front of a computer and give up responsibility for learning to the computer, they won’t learn anything much at all.  Well, certainly not what you wanted them to learn.

Thank goodness for some decent weather at last – daffodils at school still not in bloom but at least visible – they usually flower straight after February half term.  Students playing football on the field at lunchtime – first instinct to clear them off, but actually it’s bone dry – why not use it?