Session 248: Technology Subject Special

Thursday 16th April 2015

Session248SquareWe continued with our series of Subject Specials, focusing on Technology, including coding, computing and all things ICT. Co-hosted by Robert Leeman and Nadia Bentoua, the session celebrated resources, ideas and developments in teaching these aspects of technology, aimed at teachers in all levels of education.

The session asked the following questions:

  1. Why do you think a lot of teachers are so reluctant to use technology in the classroom given the many benefits? (8.01 pm)
  2. How can we enable Computer Science teachers to be more confident teaching Computer Science? (8.11 pm)
  3. Do you think teachers feel threatened by reporting data because it highlights their performance in the classroom as well as their students? (8.21 pm)
  4. What are the biggest hurdles in teaching Computer Science at your key stage? (8.31 pm)
  5. How do you think the use of technology in schools can motivate students who tend to do badly? (8.41 pm)
  6. What motivates your students to learn how to code? (8.51 pm)


Technology now surrounds our daily lives, and this is likely to be more prominent in the years to come – so its place within education is crucial now for pupils, who are growing up into a world that is going to see even greater advances in technology than imaginable.

With this in mind, the Technology Subject Special Session explored many elements of the modern education systems, including the first question which asked, “Why do you think a lot of teachers are so reluctant to use technology in the classroom given the many benefits?” Fear was a core element claimed by Pete Jeffreys who asserted, “Fear of it not working, fear of pupils knowing more, not always connecting tech with pedagogy (the ‘fad factor’)”, with Mark Boylan maintaining “reliability – Pupil knowledge vs lack of knowledge, time to understand new apps and computing due to workload”, with other aspects such as time, training, awareness, comfort zone, and support also noted (Tim Jefferson). Excited Educator declared concerns over a, “loss of control! So many teachers who fear that – funny because they are usually masters of thinking on their feet!”, which was backed up by Vicky Harrison who believed, “I think people are worried about feeling foolish if it all goes wrong”

Tim Jefferson mused, “tech has changed quite a bit – is it possible to keep up with the changes? Have quite a few been hurt by ‘fads’?”, whilst Sarah Bailey also probed that tech is, “Not embedded in training? Too tool focused rather than practice based?”, which are all very poignant and valid questions. Gary King touched on this, “Without a sound pedagogical approach to underpin its use, #edtech simply becomes #tech – this can be a problem” (article continues below…)

The next question focused on Computer Science (CS), and how to make CS teachers more confident in teaching the subject. This was likely to spark different levels of answers from teachers teaching at different levels of education. OCR Computing & ICT provided a useful definition of what Computer Science means, “Computer science is the study of how to solve problems computationally and how computer tech works to do this.

In response to the original question, Mark Boylan declared that it’s a, “Good idea to build confidence with staff by having small groups using tech alongside conventional tasks”, whilst Gary King advocated, “we shouldn’t treat CS teachers differently to any other teacher; correct support, CPD and resources”. The whole idea of CS can be quite overwhelming, with so many languages and programs, which was summed up by Tim Jefferson, “ICT is my second subject and the thought of teaching computer science is quite daunting. Would feel better with a CS background”. In this regard, Bashaer Al Kilani called for “unlimited professional development” which would need to be ongoing to master various computer languages. Indeed, Michael Park professed, “practice, practice, practice! Coding is no different from kicking a ball. It requires muscle memory & plenty of drill,” but Ben Hall called for giving, “freedom to take risks, curriculum should not be too restrictive.”

The distinction between Computer Science in Primary Schools was noted by Angela Goodman who noted, “In Primary CS can be seen by some as something else to squeeze into a crammed curriculum, rather than something that can contribute.” In response, Michael Park argued, “this is very short-sighted belief for some. CS teaches pupils to think more precisely, a valuable life skill for all”, which is an opinion many who engage with technologies and CS would agree on. In fact, Vicky Harrison shared, “I know the school is completely changed now and children are really embracing and enjoying CS lessons now”, but OCR Computing & ICT argued a concern that, “the issue is the huge number of none specialist teachers delivering CS” across all phases of education, but Graham Andre thought the idea of local collaboration or, “hubs are a good idea, sharing ideas, experiences and resources”. Vicky Harrison shared, “Our last lesson was with “Alex” which has become very popular with the staff. One iPad app a week currently!”

The third question went a little more generic, asking, “Do you think teachers feel threatened by reporting data because it highlights their performance in the classroom as well as their students?” The debate opened up a little, with Graham Andre suggesting, “I think teachers are especially threatened with performance management and schools with own assessment”, with Pete Jeffreys highlighting, “Absolutely, hence data fiddling (generous reporting!) Too much is linked to pupil data”. This was summed up fantastically by Mr Allsop History who observed that it, “Surely depends on what is being reported, and how the data is being used. Lots of data rich, information poor schools.” “When data/performance is tied to job security, it hard not to feel threatened”, was a valid response by Erin, which led us to ask whether too much blame was placed on the teachers, with little exploration as to the system worked within.

One possible solution, shared by Gary King was, “In a fair, triangulated teaching & learning process they shouldn’t, all depends on leadership”, which is an interesting concept, with Angela Goodman claiming, “With triangulation being encouraged this should become less of an issue. Teachers owning data and using to inform should be way.” Some concluding comments for this question included, “Data in isolation shouldn’t be used without consolidating the big picture: lesson observations (ungraded) student voice, book looks etc” (Gary King); “As long as students are moving forward and progress shown-we shouldn’t be afraid to share the data” (Erin); “Data is used punitively against schools, so isn’t it natural that this feeds down? (Pete Jeffreys), and; “Fiddling data leads to a broken system, but agree that systems may be root cause (Mr Allsop History).

Back on the issue of technology, the fourth question asked: What are the biggest hurdles in teaching Computer Science at your key stage?

Angela Goodman responded, “Ensuring progression across the KS – e.g. Y2 using same apps as Y5 due to Teacher knowledge and confidence.”, whereas Erin felt her barrier was, “Personal knowledge of CS. I feel unprepared to advance the students-they are sponges!” Vijay Krishnan declared, “getting the teachers trained in the latest technology and moreover their acceptance in learning them” continues to be an issue. Abdallah Azibert made a valid point, “Schools need a test-bed to explore #tech in a pedagogical context before outlaying significant funds on potential ‘gimmicks’”

Interestingly, Jo asserted, “if you’re not a programmer then it’s difficult to be quick in identifying errors in students code which makes support difficult!”, but Paul Stockley observed, “when there’s a problem it’s mostly around staff confidence and training at KS1 + 2. There is a case for having specialist teaching”. An interesting point was made by Craig Smith, “I’d say not having backup from home. Parents can easily help with maths, spelling, etc. But not CS.”

Next, the session explored: How do you think the use of technology in schools can motivate students who tend to do badly? Erin replied, “Tech allows students to use read/math skills in different ways. Helps them to feel more successful. Can remove stress”; with Bashaer Al Kilani asserting, “tech will engage them to the maximum. The language digital natives speak”.

Ben Hall noted how, “some children can be motivated by technology, have seen some great Minecraft inspired work!”, and Angela Goodman observing how, “Often if outcomes carefully considered, using tech to meet Students where their interests lie can bring great results”. Phil Ruse went as far as to say how technology is good for, “Empowering students. Can’t under estimate how tech may help Students succeed or improve where previously there have been barriers”.

In regards to failing with tech, Andrew Murden noted how technology allows, “To personalise learning and feedback, allows space to fail privately …”

Finally, the session asked: What motivates your students to learn how to code? Ben Hall declared that the answer to this was an, “Easy one – they love it! The chance to create something and make it their own”, with Graham Andre adding, “The ability to create their own game, with their own rules and boundaries – love challenging friends when finished”. Tim Jefferson noted how, “From experience this week, being able to see the results, ask ‘what if’, trial & improve”, which allows for challenge, creativity and free-thinking – push the boundaries.


Image Source: Michael Salisbury via Flickr under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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