Musings from the Plains
Children love games, in fact, we all do so two years ago we started a project to look at how gamification principles like leaderboards, levels of challenge, rewards and competitions could support learning.
Being an inclusive school, we support a varying range of abilities and one of the major challenges most international schools face is a transient student population. Students join us with varying levels of interest and proficiency especially in Mathematics and English. Personalisation is core to the school’s vision and our gamification programme focussed on empowering learners to access our curriculum based on their pace. Another focus was enabling staff to use innovative methods of instruction to support student learning.
As part of a School Action Research Project, we investigated the impact gamification makes on attitudes, engagement and learning outcomes. We reviewed a number of platforms and mapped their impact on our processes from a pedagogical point of view. A direct result was the pilot of Mangahigh in Year 5. As part of our data analysis based on standardised assessment, we identified students who were at risk of becoming disaffected and decided to use this as an opportunity to engage them.
Mangahigh uses Artificial Intelligence to generate and mark assignments so it had the added benefit of reducing staff workload. Key staff like numeracy and assessment coordinators were trained via the support that was offered by Mangahigh. Between us we worked on a strategy and decided to focus on a year group which had the most number of underachieving students.
Staff development was critical so we conducted workshops and highlighted the benefits of using gamification and continued to support them throughout the pilot. Similarly, we ran workshops for parents showcasing how the pedagogy worked and discussed how to shift the focus to education based games instead of conventional games.
We wanted to start by setting a weekly homework or a class task initially. At this point, our strategy went out the window, as students went wild with it. In the first week, they logged more activities compared to the entire month before. We saw levels of engagement increase. Within the first month, data analysis showed that some of the identified students were catching up to age-appropriate levels. Teachers were supporting students with clarification of concepts and some students were racing ahead of the curriculum. Once the pilot was over we took stock and looked at positive outcomes and issues faced by teachers, parents and students. We devised solutions and extended the pilot with Year 5 teachers now training peers from other year groups.
The focus was on developing Mathematics proficiency through the use of gamification principles across the Primary School. The programme empowered teachers to develop innovative pedagogical practices that incorporated data-driven planning.
Students take CEM tests in September and these are used to measure annual progression. Analysing data showcased higher than average gains for age-related Mathematics progression after the project was introduced. Even taking into account the highest ever annual gains historically, the year on year progression was almost half a years worth per child!
Measuring progression of disengaged students showcased huge jumps. Boy A who was -0.4 and -0.5 in his two previous CEM tests jumped to +0.98 in one year. Similarly, Girl A who was -1.5 years behind her age reduced the gap to -0.07 within one year. These success stories can be attributed to greater use of data generated via Mangahigh, which enabled our teachers to support students by reducing the burden of assessment and assignment setting and focussing on informed lesson planning and targeted interventions.
The end result was that over the course of the programme, our students won the FOBISIA Mathematics challenge (twice) and 17 gold medals as part of the annual Mangahigh challenge. More importantly, though, there were some amazing individual success stories that inspired the whole school community.
Our initial work on this project was also published by Mangahigh to inspire others on how to embed gamification successfully in schools and now it has been recognised as an example of outstanding use of Digital Technology for Learning at the education Oscars, the International School Awards 2019.
To us though the main success has been that our students have fallen in love with Mathematics again and this continues even when they don’t have Mangahigh in front of them.
This past week has highlighted that if you give staff and students the freedom to creatively explore a subject, the outcomes are phenomenal. The energy levels that they showed truly amazed me and trust me they tend to be pretty high in our normal lessons.
Now, I can spew how we used gamification techniques, planning rubrics, targeted activities, differentiated challenges and so on but none of that matters compared to what our students brought to the table.
Creativity, Imagination & Energy.
There was a sense of community, there were tears, there was grit, there was resilience, there was passion, there was risk taking, there was learning, there was collaboration, reflection and action and let’s just stop writing all the learner profile buzz words as well.
I can tell you about the teacher that came in, looked at the energy in the room, got shocked and walked out. “Oh My! This is Computer Science Week!” Or I can tell you about the group of parents that came in on a visit and ended up in the Innovation Lounge when activities were on full swing. What a way to sell your school especially when their children say out loud “I want to go to this school”.
I wish I could bottle the energy up and share it with you all. If you are interested in finding up what we got up to, please go through this Twitter collection or the YouTube vid at the end.
Computer Science Week 2018 highlights
In the end, students loved the experiences we setup for them, they engaged with the subject and brought something new to the table for each activity they took part in.
So as I sit here reflecting on the week and the lessons learnt, which student showcased what potential or how a particular child that we normally find difficult to engage with in lessons was observed leading from the front, one thing is clear, we have got to ignite that passion in our lessons as well. My teachers were on point this week and they skipped lunches, they stayed back, each day their energy quotient went up to match the students and the students responded in kind. A feedback loop of sorts and it was amazing to be part of it.
But is it sustainable every day?
So how do we go on from here, the challenge for every educator who sets up something like our Computer Science week is, what about the lessons after the event and also what about the other teachers and I do apologise to the colleagues who had to bear the lessons after us. Trust me, I have been at the receiving end of that in the past as well.
The answer to it, yes. That passion I saw in colleagues was always there and just like the kids they need a planned approach to bring it out. If you think of each lesson as a mini event and build on the principles we used in the week, there is no way lessons will not be as engaging.
The reason for designing such events is not just for the students but for teachers as well. In my view, it is one of the most effective form of teacher development, learning through action. No amount of lectures or courses one attends can ever hope to match the hands on learning that my colleagues went through this week.
Try to remember your favourite teacher, the one who got you excited about a subject and inspired you to want to do well. A great teacher has the ability to make not only the topic interesting, but also the process of learning, opening up students’ eyes and hearts so that they have the acquisition, critical thinking and self-reflection skills needed to make the most of the opportunities that are offered to them.
By training and allowing teachers the freedom to focus on the process of engaging students and inspiring their interest in learning, instead of being forced to focus on the outcomes and results of assessments, we ensure engaged students, who take ownership of their learning and develop a life long passion for the subject.
The question I will leave you to ponder with is, how do you go beyond the basics to ignite a passion, curiosity and fascination in your learners?
Books hold tremendous power over our psyche.
Nothing compares to a good book in firing up the human imagination. They help us unite in a way like no other. Stories have true power to bring about change and open us up to ideas and new thinking, thinking which we would never agree upon if someone spoke to us about it.
One of the sessions over this term whilst using the Book Creator app with primary students, resulted in some great stories and fun learning. It was a pleasure revisiting some of my childhood classics like Enid Blyton, Dickens and discovering new ones like My Family and Other Animals. How I missed that one is a travesty but I guess better late than never.
I also noticed that as we grow older, we don't share as much about the books we read. It starts becoming more of a personal thing.I witnessed this when our Primary children were so enthusiastic in talking about the books they read and sharing why and what they liked. In Secondary it is often more guarded, perhaps a more reflective view that isn't shared as often. At IB level, it is like getting blood out of stone. Even teachers fell foul to this. I wonder if the fear of being judged plays a part in it or conforming (or not as the case might be) to a particular stereotype or agenda or we simply just become selfish.
It would be interesting to find out how reading for pleasure changes as children get older. From being almost a daily thing when you are young (at least in school) to being selective as you grow. Perhaps other commitments to your time take precedent or the enforcement of certain texts as part of academic studies plays a part. It makes some of us switch off and move on to other mediums like music, films, games and so on and that I guess is the true travesty.
I think back to a visit from JK Rowling at a previous school. Inspirational does not even begin to describe it. It was a life-changing event for some of the children. There were tears, excitement, enthusiasm by the bucket load. Even those who haven't read Harry Potter (well the series has only sold 500 million so bound to have a few billion who haven't read it) were inspired as I found out when I talked to teachers and students around the school.
Why was it so good? Despite her being such a lovely lady, it was her persona, how she praised everyone who asked a question, to how articulate she was with her answers. How her passion for reading and writing stood out and how she connected with the children. How the human element shone so brightly. Her politeness, calmness and that fire when Potter lore was discussed with some true fans in her interactions. That is what perhaps translates in her stories, that ability to connect, which has made her such a success. So how does all this help teaching?
Well, I think you picked up all the traits implied and if we as teachers can tap into those then our learners are truly going to foster a love of learning right on par with the love of books.
That one child...you know the one I mean.
The one who looks lost in your lessons. The one who does not connect with the learning. The one who ends up not getting you that perfect pass rate. The one that you talk about in the staff room. The one whose parents aren't as supportive as you'd like or who is just lazy or has behaviour issues or any one of a 1000 other reasons for not doing well.
That one child is always of interest to me in my lessons. I am always curious about what makes them tick. Why is it that everything I do works for others but not them?
I delve into data, but that often doesn't help at all. I delve into the myriad of experiences offered by my colleagues on dealing with them. I work with parents, experts, differentiate, you name it and I do have success from time to time but not all the time.
So how do I deal with that one child (or more as the case may be)?
I build relationships.
Instead of differentiating more, I try to find their interests. I let them work at their own pace. I use praise a lot and I rarely criticise. I try rewards, cajole them, probably not the most politically correct term to use, groom them for learning.
In one case, I had to learn about basketball just in order to strike a conversation about the sport and in another read up on One Direction. I made a point to walk about at lunchtimes when that child was playing basketball and strike conversations or use 1D references in lessons. I take an interest in them as an individual, I start valuing their opinion. I don't try to force it and try to let it happen organically. I once had to wait more than three quarters of a year to get through to a student. A lot of learning time had been lost but the gains made in the remainder of the course helped them achieve more than what they did in their other subjects by the time I finished with them.
The end result is, that one child will work their socks off for you if they connect with you and chances are remember you and what they learnt from you for the rest of their life.
“There comes a day when you realise turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realise there's so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on.”
Zayn (formerly from 1D)
“Schools that provide a laptop to each student as part of a comprehensive program are likely to see measurable benefits.” (Zheng, 2016)
A meta analysis of 15 years worth of 1:1 research studies in 2016 by Professor Zheng of Michigan State University and Professor Warschauer of the University of California found that 1:1 laptop initiatives boost study scores. This meta analysis summarises the overall outcome of both positive and negative 1:1 studies over the past 15 years. The researchers found that 1:1 program, “on average, had a statistically significant positive impact on student test scores in English/language arts, writing, math, and science”.
In addition to improved scores on standardised tests, the benefits of successful laptop programs include an improved writing process. “Students received more feedback on their writing, edited and revised their papers more often, drew on a wider range of resources to write and published or shared their work with others more often,”http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/does-learning-improve-when-every-student-gets-a-laptop/
The IB organisation discusses and supports the pedagogy of using technology “which should be accessible to all learners” and how it prepares students for IB in quite depth and concludes that it is the mindsets of the school community that make the impact of technology transformative and to enable this change 1:1 device access is the way to go.
Case studies of 1:1 success stories in International schools - These highlight how a multitude of schools around the world have seen a positive impact of 1:1 on learning.
Bishops Diocesan College shares that laptops have created extra motivation in boys. They were willing to put in far longer hours getting something right than had ever been the case before. It was not surprising to find children using their devices to actually catch up on work whilst waiting to be picked up and even, surprisingly, deleting games from their devices to make space for school work.
The CCL project study by the University of Wolverhampton and others, based on observation of 1:1 implementation in 9 countries across Europe recommends that
"When I learnt with a book – the book is full of facts. I wrote what was written in the book and answered according to what the teacher said. Now that I have my laptop I discover all kinds of reports and scientific investigations – which might be different from what is written in the book. It is much more interesting and more up-to-date!"
Learning with Personal Laptops in School: Benefits & Gains, Obstacles & Constraints suggests that having one-to-one computers can significantly help increase student technology proficiency, because of the increased opportunities of acquiring technology knowledge and skills while using the laptops for various tasks involving learning, communication, expression, and exploration. Their findings suggest that one-to-one computers and related technologies have enriched students’ learning experiences, expanded their horizons, and opened up more opportunities and possibilities.
Technology is an enabler to equip the students to think smarter and become more creative."
"The Malaysian ministry of education introduced a smart school policy as part of a range of policies aimed at developing a more knowledge–based economy. While smart schools embraced digital technology, the more fundamental change related to the curriculum. Teaching became less driven by textbooks; learning became more structured around personal inquiry; and assessment occurred more frequently but was managed by learners themselves. The success of the initiative has depended on establishing a communications network within and between schools. emphasis has been placed on adopting learning management systems, access to internet sources, and extensive use of personal devices. The initiative has successfully taken the school system to a state of digital maturity. it illustrates how technology can be a catalyst for curricular innovation: achieving radical change in teaching and learning."
(Ghavifekr, s., hussin, s. and ghani, m.f.a. (2011) The process of malaysian smart school policy cycle: a qualitative analysis. ‘Journal of research and reactions in education.’ 5(2), 83-104)
It puts the means for "coming to know" in the palm of each child's hand, making classrooms student-centric instead of teacher-centric. Education will them move from "I tell" to "We find." - Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway From Banning to BYOD
Students learn how to use their device for learning. As students discover how to learn with their devices, they are able to extend their learning beyond the school day and often choose to continue participating in online discussions and collaborative activities for academic purposes" - Lisa Nielson in The Journal 7 Myths about BYOD Debunked
A study of 595 learners who used a course management system as part of a blended learning approach found that the system encouraged deeper learning and enhanced understanding by promoting constructive dialogue between learners and enabling interactive learning. Blended learning is the model we are focussing in our tech based pedagogy where technology and face to face instruction are used in tandem to get the best academic results.. (Kember et al. 2010)
Internal data analysis
Internal data analysis is also crucial as it establishes impact of change in your context. Analysis of our IB results sets over the last 10 years suggest that before BYOD our average point score per student per subject was 5.01 and post BYOD it has been constantly improving to 5.6 per student per subject denoting an improvement of more than half a grade level. Use of 1:1 at IB has definitely contributed to this and changed the way we teach and the way students learn. From use of Kognity and digital textbooks to becoming organised through the use of Managebac for CAS and Extended Essay to increased teacher student communication and peer to peer collaboration, we are using technology to teach and learn in ways that we would not have imagined a few short years ago. Even if one was to argue that teaching might have improved this fact is certain that technology has not had a negative impact.
Of course there are issues and concerns highlighted in research as well.
One concern from parents and students is that the added weight of the laptops is too heavy in their school bags (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008) but this could be addressed, as the authors suggest, through the use of a hybrids, netbooks or tablet which are lighter than traditional laptops.
Parents are generally concerned that the school might better use money in other areas like books, worried about loss of writing skills and expressed concern about the amount of time spent on the laptops (Lei and Zhao, 2008). The mixed feelings expressed by often supportive parents according to the authors stems from the realisation that “students were going to be living in a digital era where paper and pencil might not be as important as in the past; but they still wished students would have good penmanship and appreciate the value of books.”
BYOD generally frees up school resources to be devoted to other areas and the issue about the loss of writing skills and excess screen time stems from ineffective professional development of staff. Greater use of whole school PD provision and the intensive focus on the best pedagogical techniques by curriculum leaders and leadership teams actually provides an effective system of check and balances against overuse of technology. Coupled this with profile management enabling us to limit screen hours, digital citizenship and parental workshops will help ensure that the above concerns are avoided.
Discipline - Misuse of devices is covered under school discipline policies and the same rules will continue to apply as they have with school devices. Concerns related to students creating hotspots and dongles or using Virtual Private Networks which they can also do with school devices are normally covered under the same policy. Since we are here to educate children, digital citizenship courses can help them in becoming responsible digital learners.
Security/Theft - Schools can cover theft and accidental damage under a blanket insurance policy and also using tech like RFID tags ensure devices are linked to pupils. Profiles can also be installed on devices which can also protect children when they are at home.
Esafety - Schools have strong firewalls firewall ensuring they get the same protection as school devices. In tandem with our digital citizenship curriculum this will empower students to be safe whilst using their devices.
A study of laptop users in university classrooms found that students who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture performed worse on a test than students who were not multitasking. Researchers suggested that embedding “a few rules of technology etiquette that are enforced in the classroom throughout the semester” could help (Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers and Education, 62, 24–31.)
The most concerns regarding one-to-one programs come from teachers. Where 1:1 programs have not had great impact, there has been little planning, ineffective supervision of device use and a substitution model of teaching using technology. Many of these concerns surrounded how the laptops impacted teachers personally. Many teachers lacked self confidence and were concerned about how they would adapt lesson plans to include technology (Donovan et al., 2007). Teachers also expressed concerns over the amount of time it takes to monitor student activities on the laptops during class time (Grimes and Warschauer, 2008; Lei and Zhao, 2008). Other disadvantages include uncharged laptops impeding work completion, network connection and technological difficulties, ease of plagiarism and the time lost due to training students in the use of the laptops.
In schools where technology is not making a significant impact, researchers have identified numerous culprits, including teachers' beliefs about what constitutes effective instruction, their lack of technology expertise, erratic training and support from administrators, and govt and local policies that offer teachers neither the time nor the incentive to explore and experiment. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/06/11/why-ed-tech-is-not-transforming-how.html
Deep rooted tech PD provision and the implementation of tech integrators along with digital citizenship courses help us avoid these pitfalls.
When you consider that majority of students at nursery have used a tablet, smartphone or an equivalent computing device before they have learnt how to handle a pencil, it is a given that as these students move through school, they'll have some type of device in hand. What's more, students will want to use something that they're familiar with, that they own, and that they won't have to change once they leave school.
Summarising the pedagogical reasons for 1:1 for us.
Anytime/Anywhere learning – 1:1 makes learning a part of students’ lives. It bridges the gap between at home and in school learning. With the increase use of Firefly, teachers can set tasks which extend learning beyond the class and send reminders or syllabi. Students can discuss homework or ask for study support using the same device.
1:1 makes differentiation easier – Teachers can use media to meet different learning needs. From auto translating to creating multiple pathways along with a huge wealth of resources available online.
Embracing tools makes education interactive – From using polls to check student understanding to the use of supplemental learning resources like digital books (imagine using an interactive 3D animation of how the heart works rather than a picture) and interactive tests that monitor progress and provide immediate feedback, having a device on hand allows in class learning to be supported innovatively.
1:1 embeds digital etiquette – Increasingly people fear devices for the potential of distractions and safety but instead 1:1 allows new learning opportunities. Teachers can teach responsible technology etiquette which is an increasingly needed skill in the workplace.
Saves learning time – Makes collaboration easier and research can be done faster. More diverse sources can be used instead of a few outdated textbooks.
Teachers in full control - Technology doesn't need to be involved if a teacher is already flourishing without any device in the classroom. Our teachers are aware that technology is a tool and should only be used when necessary. We are aware of how easy technology can distract and our school protection measures will apply to any student device offering the same protection levels as in-school devices.
We are responsible to preparing out students for the modern workplace. Teaching students how to correctly use devices for learning is necessary. There is often a duality of tech use, school devices for work and home devices for mostly entertainment. Simply assuming that they will know how to effectively use technology for learning is a great fallacy.
A recent talk given by the Dean of Warwick University highlighted the importance of technology in higher education and the workplace. The time is ripe for us to move away from the ICT for teaching to the ICT for learning and the consensus is that 1:1 is indeed the right direction to move onto in the current context.
Sources used in research:
"Information and communication technology (ICT) has revolutionised virtually every aspect of our life and work. Students unable to navigate through a complex digital landscape will no longer be able to participate fully in the economic, social and cultural life around them." OECD 2015 Report
TechConX is an annual technology conference organised by the Canadian International School in Bangalore. This year it ran over two days - 22 and 23 of Feb.
Day 1 of the conference was spent visiting classrooms from IB languages to IGCSE and Y9 Maths to Science and English to elementary classrooms. We visited a huge number of classes and first hand saw how non-specialist teachers were using technology.
Day 2 was full of tech sessions involving both local and international presenters covering a wide variety of technologies. It was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to learn from some expert educators.
I have storify'ed the conference to give colleagues an experience of the visit and highlight the core technologies seen with relevant links and finally a link to my presentation.
"We have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology; that adding 21st-century technologies to 20th-century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching." OECD 2015 Report
iTunes U: A great tool to use with Apple Devices allowing teachers to easily construct courses which can be shared with students. Allows integration of digital versions of text books and rich multimedia. View: It will conflict with Firefly as we already have a platform that supports this.
iBooks: The future, interactive textbooks with search and rich and interactive media to illustrate key concepts. Side benefits - Eco, share books on multiple devices, reduce the weight of the student bag. The list goes on and on. View: Ebooks are coming. There is NO escaping this one.
Mathspace: Amazing app. Allows students to write on a screen and checks their steps providing immediate feedback. Like having a tutor that checks each question as you do it. View: One to really look into for the Maths Department.
Kahoot and Socrative Create or used collaborative fun learning games easily on any topic. View: useful for checking student learning at a key point in the lesson. Useful for all subjects
3D Pens: Allows creating of physical art or products very easily. View: Useful to enable creativity in all subjects but predominantly is going to be useful for Art, DT and ICT
ManageBac: Blown away by how IB students use ManageBac to organise themselves from CAS projects to IAs to EE's it covers it all and that is just the start. View: One to definitely invest in.
Callido: Impressed by how effective this had been for teaching children TOK and critical thinking and research skills. Used to quickly support students coming in from other school backgrounds in IB and IGCSE who struggle with IA's, EE's and the like. View: Another one that needs to be seriously looked at.
Augmented Reality: Various apps (Flash card) - Augmented Reality is a way of using a picture to generate a video, slideshow or computer generated graphic. This allows children to view e.g. moving animals inside the classroom without any of the risk. A picture of a pyramid could trigger a video walkthrough of the pyramids. View: Definitely is going to be a game changer as the tech develops but not quite there yet from the ease of use perspective.
Google Expeditions: Teachers can run expeditions from across the world in class using Mobile devices and VR! View: One for the future, Innovation Lounge perhaps needs to experiment with this.
Google Earth / Google Maps Think of Google Earth as an interactive globe and Google Maps as an interactive map which could be manipulated to take you anywhere. Paired with Google Streeview and wikipedia links, you can explore any part of the planet. View: Are we still using globes? Why? Ask your self when was the last time you used a physical map.
Post it plus: Use this app to digitise post it notes and then share them with the class. Brilliant. View: Why aren't you using this one already?
Breakout Edu: Players work collaboratively to solve a series of critical thinking puzzles in order to open a locked box. View: Can be implemented in any subject - uses hands-on colalborative problem solving and really taxes those brain cells. Higher order thinking skills are fully utilised.
There were a number of other tools like Garageband, Google Sites for e-portfolios and various Computing and other apps like Stop motion.
The Screen-time Myth presentation: This session was led by me to highlight the danger of both misinformation on the use of technology by sharing current research and at the same time highlighting what type of screen time is bad.
"Technology can amplify great teaching but great technology cannot replace poor teaching." OECD 2015 Report
"Recently the debate on screen time has come up quite strongly in education. Children are being exposed to too much screen time. Media headlines and limited research studies have been screaming about how our children are turning into addicts. It is harming the development of their brain. It reminded me of the anti-Wifi or the intelligent design brigade which became popular a few years back or even way back in the 18th century when novels took off.
Often all screen time is bunged up as one and people don't realise that the way we interact with a screen is of the utmost importance. Spending time video conferencing with a parent who is not in town or reading an ebook or an article is clearly not in the same category as time spent watching something inappropriate without supervision. The quality of these different digital experiences has to be judged and weighted accordingly. Excessive passive screen time like TV viewing is indeed unhealthy however a child reading from a whiteboard or from a projection or on a device or a book is equivalent in value.
Dr Michael Rich, the director of the Centre on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, says that he has seen cases of problematic interactive media use that keep children up at night. But, he adds, "I’ve also had kids who have been found staring wide-eyed and bloodshot at Harry Potter at two in the morning."
A longitudinal study published in the British Medical Journal of 11,000 British children in 2013 found that those who watched TV for 3 hours or more a day at age 5 had a small increase in behavioural problems two years later compared with those who watched for under an hour.
But it found no effects at all for those who played computer games.
"Rosie Flewitt who studies Early Years and Primary Education at the Institute of Education (IOE) in London says touch screens are particularly motivating for children, allowing them to use a tool they can see is important to adults. “There is an unquestionable body of research showing that new technologies can engage children,” she says. Her own studies have shown that children who struggle to learn using books often made more progress with iPads."
According to a literature review by the IOE commissioned by the Scottish Government "There is conclusive evidence that digital equipment, tools and resources can, where effectively used, raise the speed and depth of learning in science and mathematics for primary and secondary age learners."
Often studies citied like those in the https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain which is used to highlight the dangers of screen time actually focus on Internet addiction studies which normally cover a limited number of participants. e.g. one study quoted (Hong 2013) had only 15 participants who were diagnosed with Internet addictions compared to 15 'healthy' ones.
Another one cited, Yuan 2013 only covered 18 participants
Another one quoted covered 5 participants and compared them to 9 randomly selected participants
Now compare this type of research to the beauty adverts we see on TV, they often use similar research models to justify their products - 195 out 200 using this product said that visible lines are reduced etc. Even they have more participants in their controlled studies. This does not make the above research invalid however the context and participants can't truly be representative of the wider population and we should use perspective to assess their validity. Also most of these focus on the brain’s reward centre which makes you feel good when you eat, use drugs or play video games normally using neurological images via fmri which perhaps isn't the most reliable technique in the first place. https://www.wired.com/2009/09/fmrisalmon/
Other experts like Dr Aric Sigman and Prof. Susan Greenfield, often quoted in newspaper articles “Social websites harm children’s brains” have been known to be selective about which research they share. Others have researched them in much more depth already.
When Oxford University psychologist Dorothy Bishop analysed the research quoted by Prof. Greenfield she found a number of flaws. These are discussed here in depth.
Even the BBC News article Extra screen time 'hits GCSE grades' sensationalised the fact that the extra hour was after 4 hours of screen time a day. The research also pointed out that "pupils doing over four hours of reading or homework a day performed less well than their peers" It further points out that these children might have been struggling at school but does not make the same distinction for the one's affected by screen time. It also reports "All homework reported was classed as non-screen time and it is possible that screen-based homework was done which may have influenced our results."
Another article from the BBC just published yesterday (13 Jan 2017) suggested that moderate screen use 'boosts teen wellbeing' http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38611006
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) have recently revised their guidelines on screen time in light of the overwhelming research evidence in favour of constructive use of technology.
"there is more evidence that they [preschoolers] have the ability to transfer knowledge from screens to the real world, including early literacy and math, and positive social and emotional skills and behaviors."
They now recommend 1 hour of screen time and prefer co-viewing for two year olds. The following article deciphers their policy document in an easy to understand way. Actual documents are linked in the further links section.
For school going children
AAP does not suggest a limit as this depend upon each child's context. They do recommend co-viewing and supervision to avoid accidental exposure to sexual or violent media. Their research also quotes that anymore than 5 hours of passive screen time can lead to BMI increase over time. Which begs another question, how much time do children spend sitting? Perhaps that is more dangerous than screen time. What impact does this have for our classrooms?
Dr Michael Rich says "Older children may need to use computers and/ or the internet to complete homework assignments. This kind of screen time shouldn’t be conflated with watching TV or YouTube videos." “What’s tough with guidelines is the press will only take certain things from it,”
Dr Jenny Radesky from the University of Michigan finds that
"Several health and developmental risks of excessive or inappropriate (eg, violent, adult oriented) media exposure continue to exist, primarily in areas of sleep, obesity, child development, executive functioning, and aggression."
But at the same time finds:
" Well-designed TV programs and interactive media can be educational starting in pre- school; but children younger than 2 years require adult interaction to learn from screen media.
A study from Stanford University in the US found that, by 18 months, toddlers from disadvantaged families are already several months behind their more advantaged peers on language proficiency. With the right content and context, digital devices can help bridge the divide.
One of the most extensive review of literature on this area was conducted by the London School of Economics (LSE) and goes beyond the media scaremongering. It recommends that parents should not automatically assume their child’s digital media use is problematic.
"Rather than limiting screen time according to an arbitrary figure, we recommend that parents consider screen context, content and connections by asking themselves:
I often find that people who don't fully believe in technology are generally the first one's to jump up on these bandwagons. Often sourcing just one key video or research or a media report. Even educators are often reading research headlines and jumping on the bandwagon. Screens aren't going away and our children are going to be exposed more and more to them. How we manage that is our responsibility? We cannot blame a tool for how we choose to use it.
School's often choose well designed activities to engage children with the learning material however if children at home are seeing parents distracted by their phones or are left unsupervised with passive screen time then perhaps greater awareness of best practice is the order of the day.
The argument for using less technology has long past. The use of technology effectively on the other hand has just started. As educators we cannot escape our responsibility to design well crafted and balanced learning experiences which allow children to engage with our curriculum content.
As Dr David Hill from the American Academy of Paediatrics says “Time spent in front of screens or devices isn’t inherently good or bad", “Like everything else, it’s really about the content and how you engage with it”
Perhaps the debate has to move on from "screen time" to "screen purpose".
Further links and sources:
American Academy of Paediatrics guidelines
Is time spent playing video games associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children?
Gamification: "the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically education to encourage engagement with learning."
Homework from observation and experience goes one of two ways for students. There are students who do it really well. These are the type of students who don't need the additional work anyway and there are those students who can't do it, often they don't have someone to help them, so they end up skipping or copying. Why give homework, you may ask. I think that comes down to the fact that, ‘This is the way we’ve always done things’. We are comfortable with the idea of homework because it is familiar to us. This post isn't about debating the pros and cons of homework but about sharing a small success that we had and introducing the concept of gamification of homework.
In October, we at The British School, New Delhi embarked on a trial with Year 5 and Year 6 students using Mangahigh. This is a website which uses gamification to inspire students to tackle Mathematics at both Primary and Secondary level. I have used this in the past with significant success in the UK and it has been developed by some very eminent Mathematicians. We felt that instead of the usual worksheet based approach, we should tap into student interest in games and try to see if those principles can further drive connection and engagement with learning.
We decided to aim for a Diwali Maths challenge run by the website to give this an extra impetus with students. Students were trained and needless to say they picked it up pretty quickly and we set them weekly homework before asking them to go for the challenge over the Diwali break.
Students work towards goals set for them. They earn bronze, silver, or gold badges. While the students are working to obtain the badges, what’s really driving them is their competitive nature. They are trying to beat their friends, and me. I also signed up as a student and take some of the challenges. The students really do LOVE coming to me and bragging how they’ve beaten me or how they have achieved "x many gold badges". Several have commented, “It’s way more fun”
Another feature of this software is that it is adaptable and increases the difficulty of the questions based on student answers. Also there are tutorials which show students how to solve questions and understand the concept. This helps develop their confidence in working independently. Also through the use of competitive games they support or challenge each other. Competition is further driven through the use of league tables for the class, the year group and the school.
Studying the data generated by the site, on average students solved 350 maths problems over the three week trial and over the Diwali challenge period they solved an average of 500 problems per student each week. This data is for the entire cohort of Year 5. Now compare this to the weekly homework set on paper which students rushed at times. We also got in depth data which could be used to plan our support in lessons and understand where the student is really struggling.
The net result was that in the Diwali Challenge our students won 11 gold medals in a national competition. The type of students who won these were students who were traditionally disaffected by Mathematics and had homework completion issues. What a turnaround!
Now what was even more amazing was that even though the trial was over and while we were analysing the results, students continued on Mangahigh without any input from us. They took us to 8th place in the December Maths challenge. Remember these are just students in Year 5 and 6.
We are now looking at rolling this across the Primary section as an extended trial.
Exciting times indeed!
Below are comments made by our parents on a trial run with a group of students.
“I let him do this independently (as there is instant feedback to students about whether they are right and wrong so didn't feel that I needed to be watching him) however he says that he enjoyed it and it was fun.”
“He enjoyed doing the Manga high programme. In terms of presentation the website is easy to navigate for the kids and the different challenges are displayed in a clean and neat format.
Content and level of challenge:
He attempted the recommended challenges relevant for his key stage and found most of them easy. As the level progresses some trick questions come up which required he to first comprehend the questions and then go on to solving the same.
He also attempted the games given on the website. Most of the games involved doing mental math and the skill has to be applied quickly.
He enjoyed the challenges meant for higher key stages as well.He played the algebra game the most and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Overall it was a good experience for him."
"He has enjoyed Manga High programme. He likes to do it in his free time, the interface is friendly and easy to use. He independently logs into the system and finds it easy to use.
Through this program he has improved and tested his mental ability to solve math problems across several fundamentals. He has learned the ability to work on the selection of his answers through multiple choice to find the right answer. He found it challenging at same time as the questions got difficult as he progressed in the program.
He enjoyed competing with other school kids in this programme. Thanks for introduction of this program. On continuation of this program on frequent basis the mental test ability of Cameron will certainly get better."
(images sourced from Mangahigh.com and are their copyright)
Should teachers write a lesson plan for every lesson?
I had a buzzing session discussing lesson planning with some colleagues of mine which led me to think about the whole process of planning and how much I take it for granted at times.
I have some very strong schemes of work / medium term plans which are based on a lesson by lesson format with differentiation/homework and so on but when it comes to day to day lesson planning it is more organic
Below is planning process that I (and others) generally follow
We discussed the need of a formal way of writing lessons and a lot of colleagues were under the impression that this takes time away from other more important bits like thinking and marking. But equally can we rely on our memory all the time, writing something down often grounds our thinking. We can think about the questioning needed, grouping, AfL, structure. I am sure we can do that all in our minds as well but if you have 5 out of 6 lessons a day. Would you remember everything as you have thought the night or the weekend before? Most of us often do planning in our down time as far as I gathered.
Now I guess experience plays a part too, I have been teaching for 13 years now and there are certain modules and lessons I can do on the fly without even thinking too much kinda like driving to work and you know the route so well that your brain goes into autopilot. You get to work without remembering much of the journey. That to me is of serious concern as the journey of learning is perhaps sometimes more important than the end result.
Now there are tools like the 5 minute lesson plan, used by thousands, who swear by it but I find that it still takes more than 5 minutes to do one. Again that pesky thinking time there which leads me to think that I personally spend more time thinking about my lessons but have an aversion to writing it down which probably will take 5 minutes after I have thought it through.Wonder why that is?
Below are extracts I wrote for the minutes of the above meeting which shows how a group of teachers have decided to tackle this.
Writing up - why we don't do it?
Takes time away from creating resources/assessment of existing work. Normally used to explain to other people what you are doing rather than yourself. It is personal and since each teacher is unique, they have their own thinking process to follow and own method of planning. Much more effective to plan examples of work targeted to individual students like drawings or a particular skill or research new pedagogy/content.
When do we write them up?
We do formal lesson plans when dealing with new topics where we have to plan each aspect to help us deliver new learning. For formal observations though even OFSTED don't require them anymore. To show new teachers the method of planning was another time when we used written plans.
If time was not a bottleneck, what would a perfect lesson plan look like?
Do we do all of the above?
Not regularly but experience fills in the gap for most of us.
Should we be doing all of the above?
Definitely, we need to have a display about criterion like above in every classroom next to the board to prompt us to think about them rather than having a form which needs to be filled for every lesson.
Action: We will create a checklist to monitor our day to day planning for next half term to see if our current planning methods tackle the above. Share it to decide how to tackle areas that we don’t cover.
This blog is related to the use of technology for pedagogic instruction or in plain simple terms using computers to help students learn better. I plan to use this to share resources and little tit-bits of knowledge that I have gleamed from my own experiences and from others.