A Letter of Concern From a Parent Regarding iPads at School


A Letter of Concern From a Parent Regarding iPads at School*

To: The Principal and Staff at Innovation School

Dear Mr Tryit and Staff

As you know, I have been firmly behind all of your initiatives to make the kind of education you offer at Innovation School more relevant, child-friendly and inclusive of twenty-first century aptitudes. I do, however, have some deep concerns about your recent introduction of the 1:1 iPad programme at your school.

My concerns have nothing to do with the expense or the fact that you have chosen iPads rather than allowing students to bring whichever device they prefer. As far as I am concerned, the iPad is the safest option both in terms of content control and network security – and the expense is justified in terms of textbook savings alone. My issues with the roll-out run deeper than this.

I would appreciate your considered response to the following points:

  1. How are you managing staff training? From the research I’ve done into the value of 1:1, BOYD and other device roll-outs, it seems that staff need to be intensively trained – not in how to use these devices and the apps they hold, but in how to use them to transform what happens in the classroom. Hence, how often are teachers getting together to reimagine how their classrooms work and the kind of education they offer? I presume it is at least once a week?
  2. How are you training students? I do feel that if kids are going to use these devices to become more creative, more independent thinkers, they do need to receive some basic training in research skills, creative idea generation, critical thinking and in presenting their ideas effectively. I’m pretty sure my daughter (and most other students) can figure out how to use her iPad and almost any app, but I would like to know when and how you are going to be training them on using their iPads as an essential part of acquiring twenty-first century learning skills.
  3. Will you be training parents on how to manage our kids’ devices in terms of security settings and content management? Perhaps you would also consider talking to us about the same skills mentioned in the previous point so that we can support what you’re doing at home?
  4. I think that student training on online safety and digital citizenship is paramount. When are you going to be covering these skills?
  5. How will you be monitoring the success (or otherwise) of these iPads in learning so that you can make adjustments? What exactly will you be measuring and how will you do it?

Please give these matters some thought and get back to me as soon as possible.

Regards

Mr Konsurn


* Yes, I made this one up. But it can’t be long until schools begin receiving letters like this (if they haven’t already). I think they are really important concerns. Best to be prepared.

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You Know You’re South African When…


  • You're more proud of your national rugby team than you are of the country they represent.
  • You know what nepotism and cronyism mean.
  • In a five minute drive, you can pass mansions and then shacks… and think nothing of it.
  • Your first step upon moving into a new place is to put in burglar bars, an alarm and spotlights.
  • The next step is to hire an armed response security company.
  • You either never use public transport or only use public transport.
  • You are used to people calling you by a made-up, simpler first name rather than your real one.
  • You've tried to subtly elbow-lock your doors at a traffic light.
  • You call traffic lights 'robots'.
  • You have a city wife and a 'home' wife.
  • You're used to being woken in the morning by the honking of hadedas.
  • You've said 'now-now' when you meant some indeterminate time in the future.
  • You've shown up late, shrugged your shoulders and said “African time!” by way of explanation.
  • You vote for a government which ends up lying, stealing and not doing very much to help you. And then you do it again out of historical loyalty.
  • You have a power blackout readiness plan.
  • You love Nelson Mandela like a father. Even though he is no longer with us.
  • You've ever said words like 'howzit', 'eish', 'holla' and 'ja'.
  • You've been mistaken for an Australian when overseas – and you went with it.
  • You're more likely to support a football team in the English Premier League than you are to support a local team.
  • You claim Elon Musk as a fellow South African.
  • You watched District 9 and Chappie just because they were set in Joburg.
  • You know how to ululate.
  • You can sing the 'click song' by Miriam Makeba.
  • You still don't know all the words to the national anthem – but you sing the parts you do know at the top of your voice.
  • You've said “We made CNN again”.
  • You've had a bosberaad in a lapa.
  • You've bought sour milk (on purpose) and called it porridge.
  • You've had a post-braai and kuier babelaas.
  • You either speak only one or two official languages or all eleven of them.
  • You still talk about when you were in Standard 9.
  • You've tipped a car gaurd at the shopping centre.
  • You've watched 'Braaimaster' with a notebook.
  • You shake hands differently with different people.
  • You can side-click with your tongue to express annoyance.
  • You spread chakalaka onto almost anything.
  • You've sworn at those &@$?ing taxis more than five times in a day.
  • You know more than three people who have emigrated to Australia.
  • The 1995 rugby World Cup final is one of the highlights of your life.
  • You believe that littering is a viable job creation strategy.
  • You consider Parliament Live to be some of the best entertainment on TV.
  • You think that yours is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
  • You still have hope that one day South Africa will be great.

 

 

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What’s the Use of Philosophy?


 

Philosophy. It has to be my favorite word – just edging out words like idiosyncrasy, confabulation, curmudgeon, and bamboozle. I like philosophy for the way it sounds. I like it more for what it means: the love of wisdom.

But what is philosophy actually for? Does it have any practical use outside of academia?

In an nutshell, philosophy teaches us the rules of rational thinking. Yes, there are branches which study more ethereal topic such as the nature of being and the truth that underpins reality. But even in these branches of philosophy, rational argumentation and logical thinking are essential parts of the exposition of ideas. At its heart, then, lovers of wisdom are clear, logical and rational thinkers.

(A quick word of caution: Philosophy is often misused to mean some kind of homespun truth or belief. This is not true philosophy. Although it’s sometimes clever and often rings true, it isn’t philosophy.)

 

So if philosophy is about building rational arguments, what on earth is it for?

The scientific method, for one thing, is based on philosophical rules for acruing and interpreting evidence going back to Aristotle at the very least. (There’s the reason why an advanced qualification in science is called a PhD – a doctor of philosophy.) And all computer programs make use of many of the rules of logic developed through the ages by philosophers and mathematicians.

But what about you and I? What’s the use of philosophy in everyday life? I’d summarize it down to three things:

  1. Thinking deeply and clearly about things helps us to distinguish fact from woo and hard truths from comforting lies. This means that we are less inclined to embarrass ourselves by falling for conspiracy theories, food myths, homeopathy, anti-vaccination rhetoric and other such nonsense.
  2. Philosophy teaches us better communication skills. Being able to build a cogent argument is essential whether you’re giving a business presentation, conducting training or even interviewing for a job.
  3. We are less likely to be taken advantage of if we understand the laws of logic. This is especially true in the case of logical fallacies and how they are so often used in the media, in advertising and in politics to manipulate and bamboozle us.

And that’s it. Philosophy helps us to think better. And thinking better, in the grand scheme of things is good for us not only in our daily lives, but, as a collective endeavor, lies at the core of human progress and a better world.

 

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Postscript: Here’s an interesting little game you can play to find out for yourself that philosophy lies at the heart of all things. (OK, this isn’t strictly speaking a necessary outcome of the game, but it is fun anyway!)

  1. Do a Wikipedia search on anything you like.
  2. Click on the first hyperlink that isn’t in italics and isn’t in parentheses. (Also ignore external links and links to the current page.)
  3. Repeat the process enough times and you will get to the page on Philosophy. (At least, you will about nine times out of ten.)
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Mutton Dressed as Lamb: Why Writing Exams on iPads is a Mistake


In a recent post on Facebook, a well-known girls’ school in Johannesburg pronounced that, for the first time in the school’s 127 year history, the girls were writing exams on their iPads.

While this certainly speaks to a big upswing in the integration of technology in South Africa, and I would be the first to congratulate St Mary’s on experimenting so bravely, I do wonder if there is not something deeply wrong with writing exams on iPads. Specifically, if we acknowledge the potential that using personal tablets has for changing the very nature of assessments themselves (into more personalized, student-centered and diversified artifacts of learning and understanding), then we must also acknowledge that using iPads to write standardized examinations is a mistake.

Unfortunately, I have no information on what this exam was like. It may well have been a deeply individualized assessment wherein the young ladies were allowed to use a range of apps and web services (as well as being able to Google what they wished). It may well have required a range of skills such as critical thinking, creativity – and perhaps even collaboration. But something in the placement of the question papers alongside the girls in red and something about the girls themselves being arranged into neat rows implies (to me anyway) that these exams are still very traditional standardized assessments. And as such, the use of iPads in these exams appears to me to be simply an activity in typing out answers rather than writing them out in longhand. Whichever is the case, my point is a more general one anyway, and I don’t want to besmirch a school which is obviously trying to offer its students a high quality education. I merely wish to offer a serious word of caution to those who are thinking of doing similar things.

Earlier today, I published a graphic detailing what I think the four phases of iPad integration into education are. Most schools which have ‘integrated’ iPads are, I think, in the second phase (‘Plugged In’).

For me, the real purpose of the integration of iPads into education is that it gives us the excuse to radically revolutionize the way we teach and the way we assess (see ‘Charging’ and ‘Fully Charged’ in the graphic above). If we use iPads merely to augment what we are doing anyway, then these devices are not being used to their full potential. Worse, we get to call ourselves innovative without really making any deep changes, and we are thus cheating our students out of a more relevant and meaningful brand of education. Worse still, we are not shifting into a new mode of educating: what many are calling twenty-first century education, we are just calling the same old thing by a new name.

 

 

 

 

 

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Phases of iPad Integration into Education


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Click on image for larger version. Please share with attribution.)

 

 

 

 

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How to Make the Edtech Integration Guy’s Job Difficult


 

Dear teachers

It’s a lot of fun showing you how to integrate technology meaningfully into your lessons. When a teacher has an ‘aha moment’, it gives the humble technology coach / ICT integration specialist the same kind of endorphin-fueled kick as when his students do.

But motivating you to integrate technology in a way which stimulates engagement and independent learning can be very tricky indeed.

Specifically, it makes our lives very difficult when you say things like…

  • “This is all very nice, but I simply don’t have the time. I have a syllabus to teach and tests to mark, you know!”
  • “In my day we got along just fine without all this fancy-schmancy tech stuff.”
  • “So now we’ve got to make our lessons all exciting and engaging? That’s not teaching.”
  • “I cannot allow my students to discover this stuff on their own. They won’t get it right.”
  • “Yes, but exams are still paper based!”
  • “How do I mark tests on an iPad?”
  • “My computer says ‘no operating system found’ can you fix it for me quickly please?”
  • “Never mind teaching me about collaborative documents and custom search engines and stuff, I want to know how to create a word-cloud for my exam!”
  • “My students wouldn’t dare plagiarize.”
  • “The files this student submits are always corrupted. Yet when he gives me another copy a few days later, it’s all fine. What’s going on?”
  • “I refuse to use the taps until the plumbing works like I want it to.”
  • “Can you reset my personal iTunes password please? I forgot it.”
  • “Which password must I use?”
  • “I make my password easy to remember. Like now it’s password2.”
  • “Kids don’t focus when they use their devices in class. They’re too busy playing games.”
  • “Kids’ language and grammar skills suffer when they type rather than write.”
  • “Why doesn’t the school wifi work when I get home? Please fix it.”
  • “Please can you just quickly…”
  • “Sorry to disturb your lesson…”
  • “Can you color-code my messages in my inbox please? I think it looks cool.”
  • “Why email that when we could discuss it at the staff meeting?”
  • “I’ll have my calendar on paper, thank you. It’s easier.”
  • “I don’t use to-do lists. I’ve got it all up here.”
  • “Yes, but how will this affect my… I mean my students’ results?”
  • “My computer isn’t turning on.”
  • “Wait, I want to write those steps down.”
  • “I never clean my keyboard. I think it was white once.”
  • “Yes, it’s easy for you. You’re the big computer geek.”
  • “I don’t know where you find the time!”
  • “‘Gamification’ you say? Not likely! School is no place for games.”
  • “But how can I be sure that they will do the homework I give them on their own?”
  • “If I let my kids discover and learn independently they’ll just goof off.”
  • “How do I get rid of these page numbers so I can print this web page for my kids?”

Many thanks

Your devoted Edtech Integrator

Sean

 

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How to Become a Motivational Speaker in 15 Easy Steps.


(Say aloud in an inspiring tone:) Looking to make ridiculous amount of money by 'inspiring' people with bullshit they'll forget a week from now? Yes? Then follow these 15 easy steps and you can call yourself a motivational speaker.

  1. Carefully choose an arsenal of quotes which seem to be incredibly deep but which actually either don't mean anything or are just plain common sense.
  2. Mention how you don't have enough time to really get to the meat of what you're talking about, but how you can cover all of this in your intensive week long course.
  3. Learn a bit about the brain / neuroplasticity / simple psychology and throw them in as scientific justification for what you're saying.
  4. Show a TED video. Pause dramatically afterwards and look inspired / moved / thoughtful.
  5. Give your audience little activities to do to which you predict the inevitable outcome. During feedback, hold your chin thoughtfully and then reveal what it all means.
  6. Casually name-drop the important people who have attended your seminars and talks (however unwillingly). You can include these people even if they where only coincidentally in the same building as you were. Always either call them CEOs or 'thought leaders' – no one really cares what their real job titles are. And, of course, a celebrity is always a 'star' no matter how minor.
  7. A little bit of emotional blackmail never hurts. Tell them how you survived almost having cancer or that time you stoically got over missing an accident by mere seconds or even that time someone you vaguely know was almost nearly tragically taken from you.
  8. Pause frequently and look pleased with what you've just said and nod. This will make the audience think that you actually have said something meaningful. And people love imitating nods.
  9. Make up a few words and trademark them. Carefully explain how your word is different from what anyone else on the speaking circuit says. A few examples: visioneering, inspirativity, leadervation, passionship, questioneering, and so on.
  10. Misrepresent a few scientific studies to fit what you're saying. Be careful to be a bit vague on the specifics.
  11. Reduce complex ideas to simple idiotic idioms such as 'our expectations determine our outcomes' or 'our habits are our prison-keepers'. (You may steal these directly from anywhere you like so long as you're not videoing and selling this particular gig.)
  12. Design activities in which participants can inadvertently create a metaphor which describes themselves – and then proceed to tell them what it all means.
  13. Say 'we' a lot (even though you know you have nothing in common with the bunch of losers in front of you).
  14. Make sure that you use words like: spiritual, essence, love, creativity, passion, inspiration, growth, development, innovation, leadership and bravery. Say some of these in a very serious, conspiratorial stage whisper.
  15. Make up something you can brag about doing in the future. Writing a book, conquering a mountain, breaking a record – it doesn't really matter. (Obviously you have no intention of doing this any time in the future, but who's going to know, right?) Squeeze out what you have actually done until it is absolutely bone dry.

Oh, and one more:

Be sure to talk for so long that people give you a rousing round of applause when you're done – mostly out of sheer relief.

 

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Belief


 

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Doubt


 

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A Great Thinker


 

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Johnny Has Achieved to His Ability: How to Read Between the Lines of Report Comments (A Hack-Sheet for Students)


Dear students

I have used almost all of these in my report comments about you. But I don't mean them this way. It's only those other teachers who are so mean.

 

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Why iPads in Education?


After Fred Krazeise:

 

 

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How to Take Awesome Notes on an iPad


It turned out a bit messier than I wanted but I still like it:

 

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A Message to Teachers & Parents: What School is Really About


We need students who take responsibility and who are completely accountable for their actions; students who find solutions to problems which may seem insurmountable to the average person. We need students with grit.

We need to develop students with tenacity and the willingness to persevere when the going gets tough because difficulty is one thing which we can predict they will encounter.

We need to nurture students who care about other people; students who treat others with kindness and compassion; students who are willing to help others despite the fact that it may mean sacrifice on their own part.

(Russell Hardy: Principal at Crawford College Lonehill)

 

 

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The Benefits of Chess


Sean Hampton-Cole:

I keep telling people that chess is a wonderful thing for young brains…

Originally posted on Moves for Life Blog:

Chess1“According to research, Test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities,” states 4-time World Champion Susan Polgar in a recent interview.

In approximately 30 nations across the globe, including Brazil, China, Venezuela, Italy, Israel, Russia and Greece, etc., chess is incorporated into the country’s scholastic curriculum. Just as athletics are a part of the required agenda at schools in the United States, Chess has been that way in the European Nations abroad.

Cognitive Benefits

Chess has long been regarded as a game that can have beneficial effects on learning on development, especially when it is played from a young age. below are some of the most critical benefits that chess can provide to a child:

  • Develop analytical, synthetic and decision-making skills, which they can transfer to real life.
  • Learn to engage in deep…

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10 Questions Employers Should Ask Potential Employees (And What the Answers Tell You)


  1. How would you evaluate the reliability of this fact I found on the internet? (Inclination towards critical thinking)
  2. Where would you most like to travel? (Wider interests.)
  3. What one thing could make the world a better place? (Social and / or environmental conscience)
  4. What do you tweet about most? (Honesty)
  5. You win $300 000 000. What do you do with the rest of your life? (Integrity)
  6. What’s your favorite chess tactic? (Strategic thinking)
  7. What stands out for you about the book you are currently reading? (Attention to detail)
  8. What is meant by ‘intelligence’? (Ability to think on your feet)
  9. You can invite anyone to a dinner party. Who do you invite? (Personal priorities / sense of humour)
  10. What are you currently learning about and what do you still want to learn? (Propensity for personal growth)
  11. How many questions did I ask you today? (Ability to see the bigger picture / focus / independent thought / response to failure)

 

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If Buzzfeed Were to Describe the Daily Grind at a School


Sadly, I think they might actually buy some of these…

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The New School: Twenty-First Century Pedagogical Priorities for Students and Teachers


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Learning Styles Are as Important as Ever. So Shut Up.


 

Learning styles have been 'discredited' – using the ability to recall facts as a baseline. They have “no measurable effect” – if you measure their effectiveness using standardized tests designed to test recall.

Meanwhile, in real teaching and learning (where we teach a bit more than facts to be regurgitated) they are as important as ever.

So please stop using the saying that “learning styles have discredited, don't you know” to justify your monotonous, dull, one-size-fits-all lessons.

A longer rant here: Learning Styles

 

That is all.

 

 

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Last Term Was A Good Term At the Chalkface


(Note: So sometimes I use my blog to be open and honest about my successes and failures as a teacher. This is one of those. Please skip it if you prefer my rants to my cathartic moments.)

Last term was a good term.

I am not going to moralize about it.

I am not going to try to sublimate out a ‘deeper’ meaning.

Just this:

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