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Tablets – do they really improve student learning?

Yesterday I put a question to Twitter that had been troubling me for a while:


I am very grateful to @ictevangelist, @buttonbashing @danjjroberts @gary_s_king and @naace for their responses.  I wanted to collate all the responses along with my interpretation of them and how I intend to move forward on this.


Use before and after polls of digital leaders

A possibility, but we have yet to implement digital leader in my school, so no “before” polls.  I have however, been convinced of their need by @ictevangelist and will probably be putting out feelers for this over the next couple of weeks to kick off after Christmas.   This is an avenue that I can plan to go down though.

Data from time spent using edtech (like VLE/apps etc)

This is definitely doable, I will need to take into account the fact that staff are not using the tech consistently, but this in itself could be an indicator, is there a difference in the progress of students whose teachers are using the edtech compared with students whose teachers are not using the edtech? Is there a difference in the type of edtech being used, ie, does the VLE provide more learning opportunities than SAM Learning?  is access to apps actually helping (given it is a substitution (SAMR) rather than any great enhancement)?


Dan directed me to where I found some rubrics for student learning and teacher delivery.  I have printed them off but I have to admit I have yet to read them – next blog!


  1. Suggested that the research question be broken down in to smaller parts rather than starting with the “whole school” – many others have agreed with this and I will break it down.
  2. Reminded me that qualitative research is just as valid as qualitative research; teacher and student anecdotes should be trusted – I agree with that in principle, but with a small school, and a special needs one at that, it just wouldn’t have the same validity, and when we are talking about tens of thousands of pounds, I want to be able to offer them something less subjective.
  3. Suggested looking at quantitative “time on task” research (along the same vein as @buttonbashing) – I will research into this
  4. Use local government and employability stats to push the need for digital literacy – not so relevant with our school, only 5 or so students will be capable of employment when they leave
  5. Increased efficiency means that staff can do more, quickly and will therefore get more done which will save the school money in the long run.

I feel Naace may have been a little ideological with their responses towards the end, but they do make some good points at the start.


We covered so many topics and areas that I feel it is worthy of it’s own entry, plus I need to do some more research and reading around the subject, so this will also be part of my second (or third blog).  At this stage I should probably thank Mark as he convinced me to start blogging my journey, to share the trials and tribulations as I start to navigate my way through these murky waters.

I am aware that I (and my generation of edtech-ers) are incredibly lucky to have people who carried the edtech flag forward and are willing to share those experiences (and mistakes) with us through blogs and social media.  The first thing I do when I have an edtech question is Google it.  The second thing is shout at my computer as the school firewall has “…blocked it as web chat…”, thank goodness for smart phones.  I hope that my sharing of this will help other people, as it has certainly helped me start to sort through the ideas in my head.

This conversation is in no way complete and I suspect my journey to find the best way of answering this question at my school is going to be a long meandering path.  Please feel free to comment and share your experiences/opinion.



Making personalised Christmas cards

A short blog to share an idea I had last week that went down really well in my school.

To create a personalised Christmas (or any other card giving event) card:

  1. Download a comic book app – the colour ones are best, I like Comic Strip It on android (free)
  2. Decide on the pose and caption
  3. Set up the pose
  4. Add the caption
  5. Transfer picture to a computer
  6. Print, cut out and stick on a piece of card
  7. Voila!

You can do this without a tablet with only a couple of extra steps:

  1. Decide on pose and caption
  2. Set up pose
  3. Take the photos with a camera
  4. Download to computer and open with Powerpoint
  5. Download a comic book font (easy to find – just Google comic book font)
  6. Add captions
  7. Print, cut out and stick on piece of card
  8. Voila!

The kids at my school loved doing it and have promised to remind me (and their other teachers) at Easter time!

If you have any comments or ideas on how to improve/make simpler, please add below.


Collating the research on integrating EdTech in schools

Since my last post I have been reading a lot of the research done on integrating the use of technology in schools, successfully.

I’ve noticed that certain themes pop up regularly (in no particular order):

  1. There has to be plan of action – this continues momentum and ensures that technology is not just added because it is current but because it is relevant and fits in with the technology that is already in place/is due to be in place.  That’s not to say that the plan is carved in stone, it has to allow for fluidity as new technologies emerge.  The vision/mission statement is especially important as it instantly gives guidelines for what type of technology would fit in.
  2. The leadership has to be seen to be participating and leading on the use of technology.  If the highest echelons of power haven’t bought in, then it is going to be difficult to a) maintain momentum and b) encourage all members of staff to participate.
  3. Staff have to be given time to:
    • learn the new technology
    • prepare resources
    • collaborate and share good practice
  4. Staff have to be “good” teachers.  They have to already have a good understanding of the pedagogical relevance of a resource.  If they can not identify when would or wouldn’t be a good time to use a tablet over a worksheet they need to be given more time for development.

I started to write a Technology Plan for the school but it is turned into a Teaching and Learning Plan.

The world is changing and the classroom has to change with it.  We need to prepare our students for life in the real world and we can only do that if our classrooms emulate life.

We, as teachers, have a duty to ensure that we are confident and competent with technology so that we can pass that on to our students.


Training teachers to be good/outstanding in EdTech

I have been working in this school now for a couple of months and it has been a massive learning curve.  It is small enough to not have a ICT technician on site, my first month was spend reminding people that my technical skills are not that different to their own.  The second month has been learning the school and getting to grips with managing the iPads we have on site.

It has been doing my head in.  I have nothing against the iPads – against the monopoly of Apple, yes, but I can appreciate the wonder of the iPads.  I, however, have only ever owned Android and Windows based devices.  I have spent so much time Googling to troubleshoot everything.  But enough about that – in another blog I plan to write a bit more about the problems I had and how I overcame them (or what hack I used to make do)

One of my main focuses is to work with teachers and curriculum coordinators to help plan the integration and training of staff in some educational technologies.

When I decided earlier this year that I wanted to work with teachers in Edtech, I wasn’t aware that the role partially existed in that of a Learning Technologist.  Learning Technologists tend to be found in Universities and Colleges, and very rarely in secondary or primary.  I was bowled over when my current post was advertised and I have kept an eye out for any others, and I finally spotted one!

Most PGCE courses now have a module in Edtech, NQTs are coming into the classroom with some idea of how to integrate technology into their lessons, they are more likely to know the current and emerging technologies and this leads to a type of digital divide between older generations and younger generations.  However, it is not that black and white a line.  It seems to have a root in confidence levels, some of the “younger” generation are as hesitant as the “older” ones and vice versa.

Schools need to ensure that all staff are meeting a minimum level of competence in using technology in lessons – this needs to be built into to staff training and cannot (as is currently the case) be left up to the individual themselves to learn in their own time.  I am working on a set of skills to help measure progress, but given that much of it relies on you being a good teacher, it is not very specific.  If I manage to create something halfway decent, I will let you know.  If you have any ideas of “steps” to complete please share below.



EdTech – Work Smarter Not Harder

If we teach today’s students as we did yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” – John Dewey

In 1986 Shulman stated that a good teacher needed to not only have good content knowledge and an in depth understanding of pedagogy but a combination of the two: what he termed content pedagogical knowledge –  knowing, and using, the best way to teach what you know.  Mishra & Koehler (2006) build on this with the TPACK Model:



Mishra & Koehler’s TPACK model (Adapted from

The yellow star in the middle represents the position that teachers should be striving for – to be able to use technology in a relevant way that will impact on learning.

There is a rule of thumb that I was told when I first started teaching: “a resource should not take less time to complete than it took to make”.  There  are obviously some exceptions – when you expect to reuse a resource, for instance, but the point remains the same: given how little PPA time we get, is this really the best way to spend your time?  I remember in my NQT year spending hours on a resource for heating and cooling where the particles vibrated and moved apart for an observed lesson.  It looked good (at least I thought so) and provided a concrete representation of a fairly abstract concept but it would have been better to do a role play.  In fact, it would have been better as the idea that particles colliding created a force that pushed them apart would have been more obvious. But I was determined to wow the person observing me with my technological skills.  It didn’t work out as well as I hoped.  On the plus side I did get a much better understanding of what could be done with PowerPoint.  Those skills I learned came in far handier than that resource did.

If you don’t already know how to use a piece of technology you will need to spend the time to understand it, and the best way to do this is to use it yourself.   You need to be able to know what that technology can do before you can imagine all the ways it could be used.  However, once this is done the use of it should be simple.

Using technology in your lesson is not about creating an all singing, all dancing festival of colours and sounds, it is about finding a better way of helping students to understand the content, build on skills and make progress.  I think that this is where a lot of teachers have got lost – by dazzling their students or by avoiding using technology as they don’t have the time to create the described extravaganza.

Simple changes can have a massive impact – instead of reading out snippets of student work, take a photo of it and put it up on an interactive white board.  Have your class identify the good bits and area for improvement.  The setting up of this will take a couple of minutes and can be done while you are talking to the class – but the resulting evaluative discussion will be worth it.  Something that would be harder to obtain by simply reading out the work.

Properly integrating technology will not make you work harder, it will make you work smarter.

Code Club

A few weeks ago I attended a Code Club – I know that these are targeted at an age groups significantly younger than me – something that has been pointed out with amusement by a number of people, but I want to learn code and it’s difficult to do from a book.

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