Tag Archives: history

‘Technology is like History – it makes us think’

Oliver Quinlan spent two years as a primary school teacher before recently moving to the role of Lecturer in Education at Plymouth University.

Previously a music producer, DJ, and IT technician in a nursery school, he is passionate about following big ideas and learning what is needed along the way. As a primary school teacher, Oliver worked on bringing the child centred ideas of Early Years education to older children, and empowering them to take control of their learning in school. He is now bringing these ideas to teacher education.

People I meet in education are often surprised to learn that my undergraduate degree was not in technology, or anything related to ICT. In fact, I spent three years at Sheffield University studying History, particularly Early Modern social history. Having moved into a career based on education and technology, it would be easy for me to dismiss the importance of this part of my learning. However, I have recently realised that the study of History has shaped my thinking more deeply than I sometimes think.

I always think the importance of History is contrast. Learning about the past gives a different perspective, one which makes us question the way things are today, and how they might be. It is a bit more complex than simply ‘learning from our mistakes’, or even some notion of progress towards some greater, more developed state. What I think it does is provide a mirror we can hold up to our selves; to see what has changed, what has remained the same, and why that is. It helps us to see the constants of being human.

Increasingly, I think technology plays the same role. It disrupts and makes us question, creating situations that provide a stark contrast with how things are and how they might be. It is tempting to see this as some model of progress; a movement from ‘Victorian factory schools’ which are now outdated to some new, modern system. Just as with History, I don’t think it is that simple. To oversimplify for a moment, this could produce the argument that in a world of ‘Google’ and ubiquitous smart phones, learning lots of facts in a one size fits all model seems questionable. However, I wonder whether such an approach has always been questionable, we just see it now in the harsh light that technology casts.

People from the past were not that different to us, and learning is a pretty natural process. What technology is doing at the moment is perhaps acting as a mirror, revealing that for the last few years we possibly haven’t been catering for the human constants around learning in the most beneficial way. That’s why I think technology matters; not so much because it lets us do cool things, but because it makes us think.

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Exhibitor sneak peeks

With BETT just a few weeks away, you might be wondering what you can see, touch or try? With more than 650 exhibitors, whatever your interests, there will be exhibitors that will enthuse and inspire you. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing with you what a selection of these exhibitors have in store.

With the buzz around social media in society and education today, SmileyTalk on stand SW47 is a new, safe social networking website designed specifically for use in the classroom. SmileyTalk aims to encourage cultural awareness and an interest in languages among primary school pupils through a stock of pre-translated phrases in 13 languages which allow them to communicate with their peers worldwide. The ‘walled garden’ website does not allow any free typing, eliminating the risks of cyber bullying and grooming that are associated with open networking site. Instead, children pick questions and answers from a range of different topics which can be added to by their teacher as more subjects are covered in the classroom.

Looking for a way to engage students in mathematics? Easimaths from RM on stand D60 is a new interactive online software package that is designed to encourage pupils to grasp key mathematical concepts without realising that they are doing it. Colourful characters, games and puzzles guide pupils through the maths National Curriculum from Levels 1 to 5 in a range of carefully structured, easy to use activities that enable students to progress at their own pace. Accessible via the internet, Easimaths allows pupils to try harder activities in the privacy of their own home, something they might not feel confident to do at school, with support materials on hand for when things get tricky.

Revision outside of the classroom has always been hard to crack as a universal process. On stand U29, visitors can find GCSEPod, an accessible learning and revision product for mobile technologies. Written by teachers and relevant to all six main UK examination boards, the audio visual material has been designed to support Year 10 and 11 students’ learning outside of the classroom, making revision more appealing and accessible to accelerate the revision process and boost exam success rates. Available via school subscriptions or to students directly, GCSEPod offers a cost effective learning resource that requires no additional hardware investment; schools stream material onto school computers, which students can then download on to their personal handheld devices or access via the school system if preferred.

On stand S57, from Serious Games interactive comes the online, interactive 3D adventure game series ‘Playing History’. Offering a new way to access history, it utilises the game media to teach pupils about important events and periods in world history. The idea behind the series is to focus on the little story that is part of the big one: to experience the role of the individual and its challenges in world history and the living conditions in different historical periods. The game series combines a colourful and humorous visual style with an engaging narrative to motivate players to keep playing and complete mini-games during the course of the game, whether learning about the Plague in 14th century Florence, or experiencing life as a slave in the 18th century.

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