Category Archives: Terry Freedman

ICT: Challenging but exciting times ahead

Terry FreedmanTerry Freedman share his views and gives advice on the challenges that lie ahead for teachers with regards to ICT and education in general.

The challenge of waiting for the new curriculum, CPD, keeping up with new technologies, finding out the best and most cost-effective way of using technology across all subjects to engage pupils, budgetary restrictions, creating the next generation of innovators etc.

What a year 2012 was! First we celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Then we celebrated the Olympics and the Paralympics. One of the Olympic venues was the Excel centre, the new home of the Bett show. Perhaps fittingly, the events held there included boxing and weightlifting…. So, should we in the ICT community be celebrating – or commiserating with one another?

Well, let’s just stand back for a few moments and look at the overall picture. Mainstream schools no longer have to follow the Programme of Study for ICT (although they do have to teach ICT in some form or other). As part and parcel of this, schools do not have to abide by the Attainment Targets and their associated Levels. There is no longer a designated central budget for schools to spend on ICT.

Even Ofsted is taking a hands-off approach in the sense that inspectors will be looking for evidence of learning taking place, which means that teachers can use ICT in their lessons how they like as long as their pupils are making the progress expected of them. Slavish adherence to detailed lesson plans is no longer required (although lessons will still be expected to have been planned!). Even the much-publicised observation by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw that mobile phones can be disruptive in lessons and that he didn’t allow them to be used in his school was not an edict to ban them from the classroom but, I think, a challenge: if you’re going to allow them in school make sure they are used purposefully. As for advice on how to do so, there are no longer official agencies to guide you, and time and money for CPD are, as ever, difficult to come by.

If we had to sum up all of this in a single phrase it would be, I think, “Laissez-faire”, which literally means “let it be”. This is either incredibly liberating, rather scary, or a little of both.

Last year, I invited people to respond to an online survey about the trends seen at Bett 2012 and what the future might hold. The two stand-out features were more and more cloudbased applications, and more mobile, mainly tablet, devices. These two trends are not unrelated, of course.

On a purely anecdotal level, it would seem that schools are becoming more and more interested in one-toone computing as a way of engaging learners and making anytime-anywhere access to the internet a reality. There have been number of trials involving the use of tablets such as iPads. While there are advantages of giving students a tablet of their own, such as the fact that they can use it wherever they happen to be, there are challenges involved too, namely the expense at a time when there are no ringfenced funds for ICT. How have schools squared this particular circle?

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and to overcome their financial constraints some schools are starting to look at the idea of Bring Your Own Device, which is something I have been researching of late. This side-steps the financial burden associated with buying and upgrading a large number of devices. However, BYOD brings its own potential headaches which schools need to think through before doing anything. In other words, BYOD is not a quick fix, and a few building blocks need to be in place before it can start to be implemented.

Interestingly, on the subject of budgets and spending, things are not all doom and gloom. According to recent research from BESA (An assessment of digital content sales in UK schools, April 2012), sales of digital content have risen, especially in primary schools. The result, is that a 5% increase in spending is predicted for 2012. That’s a welcome sign because it would seem to suggest that an absence of designated funding for ICT may not lead to an overall fall in spending on it.

The research does not provide reasons for this, but it could be that the disapplication of the ICT Programme of Study from September has led schools to rethink what they are doing in ICT and try something new. Providing a curriculum that will inspire the next generation of e-learners, is a challenge and a half – but how exciting to be able to wipe the slate clean and start completely anew!

In my opinion, the only way to cope with all these challenges is to become something of a researcher. That doesn’t mean walking around in a white coat and carrying a clipboard, but taking the time and effort to find out what other people are trying. Even if you don’t have much time, that would be a worthwhile investment. There are several ways you can do so. I’d say going to the Bett show is an absolute must – and I’m not saying that just because I am writing this for a Bett publication! Bett is an excellent opportunity to get to see the latest products, hear what people are doing in their own classrooms, and to meet other people facing the same challenges as you.

If you’re not already on Twitter, sign up now! The days when people told everyone what they are having for breakfast seem to have gone, thankfully. Search for #edtech or #ictineducation and follow a few of the people who appear in the list. I’ve found this invaluable for finding out about new resources, reports and websites.

Go to http://www.technorati.com and search for blogs on educational technology or ICT in education, and fi nd one or two that you like the look of.

There are two good things about having a laissez-faire environment. First, nobody can truly say they have the answer. The time is right for trying new things out, whether in terms of the curriculum (should you have a greater emphasis on computer programming), assessment (how do you judge standards?) or technology (tablets or laptops?). Second, because of that I sense a real excitement in the air, and a greater than ever willingness to share.

Have a good Bett!

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A look at Bett ‘trends’

Terry Freedman, independent educational ICT consultant and publisher of the ICT in Education website, shares his thoughts on ‘trends’ at Bett and beyond.

It’s always interesting to try to predict what will be the main features of the educational ICT landscape in evidence at the next Bett, and this year will prove no exception to that rule. Each year I carry out a survey in which I invite people who have attended Bett to say what they thought were the main trends in evidence, and back in January 2011 several people cited 3D and mobile technology (you can download the full results from Unofficial BETT-Related publications now available). In January 2012 one of the main trends seen was cloud computing.

That would seem to be the wrong way round in a way: if a school was considering going down the mobile learning route in a big way, it would be sensible to make sure it has a wireless network that can cope in place, along with storage facilities which would, no doubt, be at least partially cloud-based. That, certainly, is what has emerged from my own ongoing research into the Bring Your Own Technology trend which is beginning to appear in the educational as well as the corporate sector.

The best way to make sense of this apparent incorrect order of events, and the answer to the question “So what?” is, I think, to regard Bett to a large extent as an indicator of future possibilities. In that sense you could argue that Bett, as a whole, is ahead of the game. Those trends noted by my survey respondents are now being recognised more and more in the “blogosphere” and the education press in general. Much of the evidence is anecdotal, but a recent report by BESA confirms them, at least as far as tablet computing is concerned. The figures are quite staggering.  According to “The future of tablets and apps in schools”, primary schools and industry believe that by the end of 2012 4.5% of school-purchased computers for pupil use will be tablets, while the corresponding figure for secondary schools is 7.4%. They may seem like small numbers, but they equate to 30,000 and 74,000 tablets respectively.

Those percentage figures leap to just over 19% and 25% by the end of 2015, and 45% and nearly 47% by 2020. In other words, if these predictions are accurate, nearly half of the computers children will be using in schools in 2020 will be tablets.

Hopefully, that will translate over the coming years to more and more educational apps available and, perhaps even more important, more and more guidance and evidence on how to get the best pedagogical use of them.

It will be interesting to see, at Bett, what the trends are in not only devices and device management, but also in what apps are there and how teachers are using them. As we move more and more into a mobile-dominated era, I suspect it is the last two that will become even more important.

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant. He publishes the ICT in Education website at www.ictineducation.org.

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Having a BETTer experience

Terry Freedman, independent educational ICT consultant and publisher of the ICT in Education website, shares his tips for getting the best out of BETT.

As a BETT veteran (should that be ‘BETTeran’?), I have developed a number of strategies over the years for getting the most out of BETT.

Now, you might think that this is a bit over the top – after all, how hard can it be to just turn up, whiz round, and do everything you need to without any planning? Well, the answer is that you could do that, but you won’t necessarily benefit as much as you might have done with a little planning.

BETT is big in terms of numbers: last year there were over 30,000 visitors. BETT is big on ideas as well. There’s always a healthy crop of cutting edge technology, not all of which has immediately obvious application in education, but is valuable nonetheless in encouraging out-of-the-box thinking. The seminars and conference are also increasingly important sources of invaluable information In fact, BETT is now regarded as the biggest educational technology show in the world. All well and good, but how can you ensure getting the best out of BETT?

I’ve written over 50 top tips for BETT which will be published soon in my newsletter, Computers for Classrooms because there isn’t room here for that many! So here are seven key ones to be thinking about.

Why bother?

I think one good reason is, quite simply, the buzz. While it’s difficult to quantify it in any way, there is definitely a value in taking the opportunity to become (re)inspired by the sheer range and amount of resources available.

There’s another reason: you might find a cost-effective solution to a budget-related problem. Last year, for example, I came across at least two products I hadn’t heard of before which could potentially save a school thousands of pounds per year.

But perhaps the most important reason is that it’s an opportunity for some really good professional development, both formally, in the form of seminars, and informally, in the form of talking to people.

Before BETT

Ask permission to go! It’s an obvious statement to make, but it’s a good idea to make sure your attendance at BETT is in the school calendar and planned for. With any luck, that will make it less likely to be cancelled at the last minute because of a colleague’s absence.

Register online, free of charge. It makes it much quicker to get in than lining up when you arrive.

Get yourself some business cards. Apart from the fact that handing someone your card looks a lot more professional than writing your email address on the back of their show catalogue, there are two other benefits. First, you can drop your cards into prize draw boxes. Second, instead of carting home reams of stuff, you can ask exhibitors to contact you after the show – without having to fill out one of their contacts forms.

During BETT

If you get thirsty, look out for free water which may be provided by some exhibitors.

When you strike up a conversation with someone, or meet up with colleagues, always ask: what have you seen today that has excited you? And then follow up on their suggestions.

After BETT

Arrange a team meeting for as soon as possible after the show. Have each team member say what three things most excited them, and three new ideas they picked up, plus what needs to change in your current practice. OK, “three” is an arbitrary and artificial number, but you get the idea.

A forthcoming edition of Computers in Classrooms will include dozens more suggestions. See you at BETT!

Terry publishes the ICT in Education website at http://www.ictineducation.org and the Computers in Classrooms newsletter at http://www.ictineducation.org/nesletter.

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