Thursday, March 1, 2012

Webtools 29/2/2012

Whenever discussing technology on twitter I find myself in two camps. The techie in me enjoys the discussion and likes finding out about the new ideas out there for teaching and learning. But the realist in me realises while technology is the present for a lot of twitter users, for a lot of the teachers I deal with everyday it is at best a futuristic dream and at worst a apocalyptic nightmare. Schools I visit just do not have the resources to fill their classrooms with technology. Some students have PCs and smart phones but the majority do not and teachers do not have the training or the time to help them embrace new technology with confidence.

What I found sad about the webchat last night was how technology is presented as a fait accompli. This was a question that was asked and answered with much enthusiasm:

How do we get non-tech savvy teachers excited about webtools?

My simple answer to this is that we don’t, let them discover and find out in their own time. It is not our job to influence our colleagues to change their tried and tested methods to adopt new and as yet unproven approaches. It was argued that as a teacher trainer I have a responsibility to help teachers to embrace new technology. I agree with that but my aim is to show how it works and let teachers make their minds up. An evangelistic approach will not convince teachers.

Some people were throwing out so many webtools that it begs the question, when do they actually have time to use all of these tools in the classroom? Or more pertinently are they filling their classes with gimmicks and not with teaching and learning.

If our aim as highlighted above is to encourage non-techies to embrace technology then we need to be considered in what we talk about. Quality not quantity, showing real classroom activities with real pedagogical value, that is better than the current approach. Flooding them with vague suggestions of the next big thing will change their approaches.

I think teaching approaches are like religions in many respects. We all have our beliefs but the trick is to respect other people’s and not try to force our own onto them. If our belief is good enough then others will come to it naturally.

Just as a footnote I truly believe that if we are going to embrace digital we need a all for one and one for all approach. It is all very well talking about bring your own devices or the students can do it at home. But if only some of the students have access to technology and some don’t it just widens the gap between the haves and the have nots.


  1. I agree completely. Far too much glee at the latest gimmicks. If anyone wants to discuss it further I have set up a moodle platform in Second Life where you can create wordle images of the points you wish to discuss.

  2. Hi Gareth,
    Just found this blog. Like it :)
    I agree with much of what you say (as I think you already know), there's one point I'd like to expand on (though I think I may be going off on a total tangent!). I agree that we don't want to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots, but I think that bringing my laptop into class and sharing with the whole class is creating an opportunity for everybody. And yes, some will be able to use the same sites/tools/whatever we look at at home and some won't, but I atill think it's worth it. I work at the moment in a classroom with a blackboard and chalk. No projector, no screens, not even a CD player. I sometimes use my laptop, my phone, to bring images and sounds into the classroom. I ofetn ask the students to use their (forbidden) phones to check spellings, definitions, find images, time activities,record themselves (audio and video). They're teens in Spain. There classroom can feel very divorced from their lives. Using the technology motivates them. Most of them won't extend it beyond the classroom (I know, I've tried!) but for that lesson, or that section of that lesson, they're engaged and focused and enjoying language. Where I'm at at the moment, I can't really ask for more than that.

  3. Thanks for the comments Ceri, very interesting insight.

  4. I identify very much with what Ceri is saying.
    At 56 I am not techno-phobic but experience makes me sceptical about every new idea revolutionising the way in which we work.
    Part of my teaching load is as an external teacher at a Czech “gymnasium” where most of the teaching is chalk board based but there are a couple of rooms with IWBs. I have found these (the IWBs) impractical to use as they are slow, unreliable and their availability unpredictable. The frustration of preparing something that is unusable means that I use my own laptop and phone. Yes they are limited but at least we know their limitations. I think that this is the way things will go. The devices will have to get smaller, cheaper and portable so that we will take our own projectors etc. with us. In the meantime it is a pity to see so much money wasted on very expensive equipment that is not used.
    I think the point about the use of mobile phones in class demonstrates this. Yes, they can be a nuisance if they are being misused or for cheating in tests (but I think that we should be giving the sort of test where simple cheating is not possible). Yes, students sometimes use them for doing things not related to our lessons which we need to monitor for, but that’s not only about phones or other devices; it’s the maths homework or chemistry test in the next lesson that’s diverting their attention. This has always been and will always something we have to work with.

  5. Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. I too am based in Czech and have similar experiences. (by the way it is not the whiteboards that are slow but the ancient computers that go with them.)
    To your last point about mobiles, as you say our students will always find a way to concentrate on something other than our lessons. I used to d may maths homework in the back of my geography class and used to pass notes back and forth in maths classes. Whether it is using paper and pen or technology kids will skive :-)
    As for cheating I remember my granny thinking it was cheating to use a calculator in tests.
    Thanks for your comments - if you are on twitter follow me. I am trying to build up a #czelt hashtag.
    I'm @reasons4