19 posts categorized "HE/FE"

February 07, 2009

Ken Robinson's The Element: reincarnating creativity

Ken Robinson Ken Robinson's "The Element" gets launched in the UK this week. It's a superb tome, and one that every educator, employee or entrepreneur should read, if only to check that they themselves are in the right place personally and professionally. Do your natural talents and passions meet at the same time and place, or are you plugging away at the wrong thing completely? Ken's book contains no simplistic lists of things one must do to survive the 21st century - it's Johnny Bunko for the over-educated.

Update: The RSA have now featured a film of his Element Lecture from February 2009.

Many of the messages will be familiar to those who have viewed his famous TED talk which proclaims, rightly in this blogger's opinion, that schools kill creativity. Why? Here's some of the stimulus from Ken's book along with some of my own observations, thoughts and inaccurate takes on the world of education.

Schools are built for, and in the image of, the industrial revolution
Schools are not only built for an industrial revolution past but also in its image - my first ever teaching placement in the most deprived area of Scotland was marked by every period of learning being 53 minutes long, something more like a chicken processing plant's shifts than a stimulating learning environment, with students batched by age and subject to standardised tests for quality before shipping to the real world. Conformity has thus always had a higher value than diversity. Disciplines on offer are subject to a hierarchy (maths and native language, followed by the sciences with music and the arts chasing the coattails).

Creativity and standardised testing can't share the same bed
We know this set of unchanging givens is killing creativity not just in high schools, though generally to a much lesser degree in primary schools, but also in Higher Education establishments. As the number of school leavers not in employment, education or training (NEET) creates a political headache for governments around the world, they are failing to tackle the continued problem in universities and colleges where the numbers also falling into the NEET category are surpassing the figures for high schools.

From recent personal experience of the 'creative output' of some UK Higher Education institutions I can vouch for a killing of creativity, independent thought and entrepreneurship, as hoardes of undergraduates and MScs fight to conform to what university markers want to see and take advantage of the spread of 'cramming courses' at the expense of pursuing personal passions at their best effort. When working on personal projects that are put forward for commissioning (i.e. asking for several £00,000s from the likes of 4iP) or for national and international media and technology prizes, the constraints of the learning environment ("a one-month unit using only x or y software") are used to justify downright poor propositions. Where's the passion that makes them stay up until 11pm and be up at 5.30am to work on their Big Idea? (These are the times 11 year olds at the New York KIPP schools regularly keep to tackle their learning, something about which they, at least, are passionate).

I said earlier that elementary schools have largely escaped this struggle for conformity, but even this elevated position is being gnawed away by standardised tests and curricula. Nothing in the past three years has made me more depressed about the state of education in England than hearing a young Wolverhampton child, part of a PDA-in-the-classroom project, saying that his prime goal from learning was to "get a five" - I still have no idea what "a five" is, but I have a feeling that it's not something that inspires me.

Malcolm Gladwell The death of entrepreneurship
This desire to "get a five" or to gain the best possible SAT test result is based on a wrong assumption, both in the creation of such tests and their perceived value in the wider world, particularly in the growing creative sector (worth £50b a year in the UK). Malcolm Gladwell's (right) Outliers, which I read immediately after Robinson's Element, offers a great counterpart in where creative success comes from in the first place. It explores the element of chance, background and opportunity in one's success, but also the need for a serious superhuman degree of practice at something before you reach the beginning of your prime, somewhere, that is, in the region of 10 years or 10,000 hours of passionate practice.

In the schooling environment we still see in most countries' high schools and higher education establishments, it's rare that the personal passion of a young person is given the chance to steer activity, resource and time in order that they might get close to achieving that 10,000 hours quicker. But it's not all the fault of institutions' structures and strictures.

More often than not, the successful student pictures themselves working in the 'safety' of faceless institutions rather than taking their passions and ideas to market themselves. History shows more entrepreneurs who were not successful students making it in the relative unsupported privacy of their entrepreneurship. Most students fail to realise, as Robinson puts it so well, that a degree these days is not so much a passport to a good job and salary, but a visa, something that needs renewed on an ever more frequent basis. But institutions and Governments are not particularly vocal in promoting this fact, thus encouraging the self-perpetuating myth that going to univesrity is better than going to college which is better than following a passion that, while you're willing to spend every waking hour working on it, might not lead to anything.

What is it that needs to change? Clue: It isn't curriculum or assessment
Nearly every country I've worked in for the past three years, from India to China, New Zealand to the states and provinces of Canada and the USA, from my native Scotland to our neighbours in England and Wales, is fiddling with two things: curriculum and assessment. Technology is often seen as the means of making teaching and learning better. I don't want to tackle here whether it does, but one thing is sure, as Arthur C Clarke (via Sugata Mitra) put it: "If a teacher can be replaced by a computer, then they should." This doesn't mean that all teachers should be replaced by computers, of course. It doesn't even mean that poor teachers should be, really. What it does highlight is that the myth an education system has no poor teachers or even a large hump of mediocre teachers needs to be met head on.

We also need to recognise that, largely, those teachers who use technology the most effectively and lead the way with its use are also, by and large, excellent teachers with or without the technology.

This helps us see what many of us appreciate already: the one biggest element of improving education, making learning more creatively inclined and entrepreneurial, is the teacher. It's not curriculum, class sizes (though smaller class sizes make the teacher's life easier) or even assessment. This is something I've been reporting back from research for two years (and which I've been blown out on more times than I can count). It's not about letting students lead the way with technology and "show us teachers" how it's done. Students are generally quite narrow in their knowledge of how to harness technology or creative venture.

No, it's how teachers and parents teach that is important. It is, to use a piece of edu-jargon, pedagogy, both at school and at home.

Yet no national strategy - and I would love to be corrected - headlines pedagogy as the key factor. Think about it: A Curriculum for Excellence (Scotland); No Child Left Behind (assessment: USA); New Zealand's curriculum is about values, competences, subject areas... Also, there's no large educational business à la Pearson that places its centre of gravity around pedagogy forcing the issue with superb pedagogy-based programmes of change, and with good reason - the business of standardised testing, where pedagogy must play second fiddle to cramming and passing the test, is worth in the USA between $1.2 and $5 billion per year per state. How much is teaching the teachers worth? Currently, a lot less.

C4 Fundamental change through Brains Trusts
When I was having a post-panel-session chat with Clay Shirky (I was on the panel and he was the first question-asker of the day) he talked about my current place of employment not in terms of what it was, but in terms of who was in it: "What a brain trust you guys have there", he said. What did he mean? He meant that the organisation employed what it felt were the best people for the job of moving its business forward, and left them to get the hell on with it. The result of feeling that you're part of this brains trust is that you strive more than you ever have to be the best in the world. How many times has someone called the teachers in your school a "brains trust"? Or, for that matter, the management team? Or the parents? Or the students? How many times a day are you aware that you're goal is to be the best in the world?

When we were developing eduBuzz for students and teachers in East Lothian, we centred it around the people, not the platform or the politique of the education authority's management (who, in some schools and particularly in the early days, riled against what we were doing). In a LIFT talk last year, I made the point of saying that its success as a project was probably down to the fact that it offered an immediate change from the importance placed on the school - school boards, school achievement, school councils - and moved it instead onto a level where individuals - people - were the focus. People, not institutions and paper-borne structures, are the sole way to help individuals find their element, nurture it and take advantage of that for the greater good. It's just that most people who have ound their element have had to go and create their own institutions or projects to find a like-minded tribe - education institutions where one is packed away by age and ability, ability determined through standardised tests, are not the place to find fellow tribesmen and women who want to be the best in the world.

It's the nurturing of the brains trust in one's place of work or place of learning that counts the most if we are to improve learning. Schools are pretty poor at identifying talents that are not testable, yet alone nurturing it (this happens thanks to the actions of individual teachers rather than a systemic ability and framework to nurture talent, in the same way as, say, a broadcaster like Channel 4 does; there, the raison d'être is to nurture alternative voices and new talent, with a budget and infrastructure built more or less solely around this. My own department, for example, manages some £50m of public and private money to nurture new talent in online, mobile and gaming media alone.).

Making sure that our current and future students in schools and higher education establishments are capable of entrepreneurship in many areas of their lives, of coming up with solutions that marry new technology (bringing with it new possibilities we could not have before thought through) with strong understanding of design to tackle issues that really matter is the number one task to ensure that they can fully participate as citizens. Simply providing access to part of that equation is not enough: broadband for all without understanding for all, community without happenstance on a global scale, a child's creativity without understanding of the potential technology brings.

Pic: How Intelligent Are You? |   Malcolm Gladwell   |   C4 Offices

Ken Robinson's The Element   |   Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers

August 09, 2008

When expectations are raised in schools, what happens in Higher Education?

Facebook_and_changes This week thousands of excited messages were displayed all over Facebook and Bebo from Scottish students, examination results in hand, readying themselves for their first year at university, away from home, with the expectation that they will be learning - literally - how to become a Master in their chosen field.

Yet over the past few weeks I've been wondering, after ever-improving learning experiences in schools, whether expectations of the learning experience in Higher Education are inflated. What is it that Higher Education needs to take into account to make learning more enjoyable, more successful and, ultimately, to allow ancient institutions to survive into the 22nd Century?

Just before I went away to France to become a Godfather, I gave the closing keynote of the UK's Higher Education Web Management conference at the University of Aberdeen, covering what I've seen emerge as the main pushers of change in society, their consequences in schools and the world of work, and what the knock-on effect for Higher Education might be. You can view the whole one hour talk, from about five minutes in past the music and introductions, over at the University of Aberdeen's video streaming site. Despite the predictable (but mostly irrelevant) debate about which tool should be used for a backchannel discussion, I hope I managed to stifle the irony of presenting a lecture on participation culture by really using a Twitter river of thought to steer my thoughts, 'live' for the 'studio audience' as well as those joining from afar. Not the conference's choice, perhaps, but the choice of the vast majority of educators I was able to tap into during that hour.

The "Google Gen" and Higher Education
In Aberdeen, I was doing my best to empower technology leaders and web managers in universities, rather than necessarily educators, to start making decisions that would impact on teaching and learning. The following week I was relating the same concerns and opportunities to the "Google Generation" Committee of Inquiry, chaired by Prof Sir David Melville CBE (pdf), revealing how, ultimately, universities in the UK and beyond would lose students who found their "way of learning" in another institution.

I wasn't alone in believing this to be the case. I was presenting evidence alongside Stephen Heppell and Keri Facer, Director Research at Futurelab, and it was a beautifully dovetailed argument we ended putting forward - almost as if we had prepared it that way. Rather, it's probably because universities in the UK and Europe, at least, are headed for meltdown if something doesn't budge soon. We had the visionary, the current status and the research backing that shows the changing desires of learners, and where universities and colleges have to head to match them.

It's rare that thinking, research, the practical ways forward and the opportunity to get the potential strategy across to an influential group come together in quite so timely a fashion. I hope that, at least, it's been an episode that changes things for the better in some small way.

December 11, 2007

Open Yale: unlocking learning

Open_yale I don't know if the marketing guys at one of the States' top university's picked up on the rather unfortunate play on words of their new initiative, 'Open Yale', but the oxymoron leads to a wonderful discovery, launched today. Yale University is making some of its most popular undergraduate courses freely available to anyone in the world with access to the net.

There's downloadable and streaming video, audio only and searchable transcripts of each lecture. Syllabi, reading assignments, problem sets and other materials accompany the courses are also provided. It's still pretty old-skool pedagogy, but a valiant attempt to bring us the likes of Professor Paul Bloom at no cost, to our living rooms and studies.

July 01, 2007

The social nature of professional development

If we can get social learning and thinking into teacher education institutes from Nigeria to the US, from Canada to Korea, then we're onto a winner for our kids.

I've put up some slides from the conference keynote I gave at the International Society for Teacher Education Annual Conference, a gathering of higher education tutors and lecturers from around the world. The theme, looking into the social nature of professional development, went down well considering it was a real graveyard slot.

To do this, however, I think we also need to seriously look at the nature of our conference delivery, in the same way as the bloggalites (socialites who blog) at US national education conference, NECC, have been saying.

Organising conferences around social (i.e. people's) interests, instead of around a programme of perceived need is the way I have organised conferences for the past two years, both unconferences and those which have carried quite significant funding. They've all been well received by those on them thanks to the opportunity they have had to learn from each other.

However, away from the conference scene it's also important to make sure that our online and blended support maintains that social presence. The modern languages project I've been working on for the past two years, the Modern Foreign Languages Environment, has not only good, current content based around the hows of teaching and learning, but also a relatively busy forum. It makes it one of the top three websites run at Learning and Teaching Scotland.

But a far greater coup has been the development of empowering tools for MFL teachers across the country. We've now got close to 150 MFL bloggers acting as nodes on our blogging network, on both long- and short-term projects, sharing everything as they go: techniques, strategies, resources, links, students' work, case studies. Add to that the 1001 members of the forum and we've got a fairly constant stream of great material to share with others.

When people ask how the MFLE stays so current with so many new contributions on such a regular basis it's this final point that provides the short, simple and, ultimately, social answer.

June 04, 2007

Citizens of the future: From employers to Further Education

Citizens_of_the_future Further Education trains our country's young people in such a wide array of skills that it's always going to be hard to come up with the perfect example for the subject you teach or learn. However, in today's talk and follow-up roundtable on the Citizens for the Future I facilitated a discussion through the possibilities each individual lecturer, tutor, student or administrator could start building on.

In Friday's presentation to employers in the fastest moving parts of the tech, design and creative industries I started out by expressing the pressure that Further and Higher Education feel to provide employers with qualified staff. Today, I guess the message to FE/HE was that the pressure for rounded, competent individuals who can collaborate and communicate effectively is arguably greater than that of qualifications.

Summary of presentation notes
The main notes for the presentation can be found in Friday's Reboot conference entry, for "Citizens of the Future". These notes might help provide some reminders of the main tech and pedagogical points I made. For some basic pointers as to getting started with all this stuff on a purely tech note, some of the starter notes on tools we made with East Lothian Computing Studies teachers might provide a starter for ten. If you're thinking about how you could use social media to promote your organisation, your trade (if you're a student) or your course then I'd recommend following the copious links in one of my favourite posts: "Just Because You Can Blog Doesn't Mean You Should".

Technologies The Blogging Plumber and why entrepreneurs need to blog
At most of the gigs I go to an entrepreneur is normally the Last.fm type, seeking out his nine figure buyout from The G Y M. Today, our entrepreneurs were more likely to be the plumbers, joiners, electricians, hotel staff, chefs, tailors or programmers of tomorrow. Why, on earth, say some people, would a plumber need to blog? Well, the short answer is: "they don't".

The longer answer has something to do with competitive markets in every vocation, the notion of the lifelong learner leading to the lifelong self-employed individual. If you can get any headstart on your competitors then you're going to do better, and blogging is a low-impact, low-risk strategy for someone to potentially make a huge difference further down the line. It might not, of course, be blogging per se, but publishing anything about what makes you tick, what you do to make you better than the rest, is worth spending the iota of time required.

Just ask the Sprinkler Doc what difference blogging has made to his profits or how much more the horticulturalists in this Australian course have learned from their collaborative wiki (an editable webpage, this one produced on wikispaces [free for teachers]). You might also ask Thomas Mahon how his suit business has come on since he started blogging two years ago, or how on earth a tiny South African vineyard had its wine become the wine of Scottish educational bloggers, of Silicon Valley and increased its sales fivefold in two years.

If a plumber or electrician can do the most basic of learning logs as they work on apprenticeships then they are already laying the ground for a successful self-employed future, a literacy on what goes and what doesn't and a crash course on web marketing in the 21st century. It's not an entirely foreign skill since so many of th students taught by today's tutors and lecturers are being thrown off Bebo in their college courses each day. It's time to harness their passion and push it in a profitable direction.

Are you faking it?
The one thing about students is that they smell a fake a mile off. Most VLEs are, to be frank, the most unappealing, unsexy, unused (and therefore pretty useless) investments that can be made. Free (and much more appealing, socially interactive) learning environments can be created with tools such as eduSpaces, Moodle or Word Press MultiUser (the latter a blogging tool which has helped create individual learning environments for over a quarter of East Lothian teachers over at eduBuzz.org).

Pink The thing is, the corporateness of most VLEs just seems 'fake' to most students. It's school trying not to be school. It's that walled concrete 1970s building trying to be innovative, open 24/7, but it's not a place I want to be when I can be in my online space (which is fuschia pink today and bright blue when Rangers play on Saturday). When things are fake (like David Cameron's ill at ease performances in front of the camera on his video weblog) then they get ridiculed or ignored (Cameron was ridiculed, and this performance garnered a lot more coverage than the legit website. Ouch.). Most VLEs, from the sound of today's chit chat, are ignored.

Social Media can bolster the VLE
While I'm not suggesting that colleges should go into the playgrounds of their students in Bebo, MSNSpaces or MySpace, I think these environments lend a lot to us in terms of what makes a community tick and want to spend a quarter of their daily 200 minutes a night online. My addiction to Facebook at the moment is mostly down to catching up with friends, contacts and friends of contacts I only ever met briefly face-to-face but from whom I can now learn when I want, where I want. Basically, it's about the people on it, not the PowerPoints or notes that I can find. Learn that lesson, and we can start to see how social media actually begins to bolster the VLE, giving it a role quite separate from the one our students are quite capable at working well in their own online social playgrounds.

Myst Theory from game-making to start organising teaching and learning
I had great fun showing what lessons we could learn from playing - and seeing work as play - if only we could steal the time to have a think. The first thing was showing what a game was, that is, with things like Tim Rylands' work with Myst we're far from the days of playing Pong, a game kids now make for free with Scratch. I also showed off some of the Bournemouth Uni research into the use of Nintendo DS's Dr Kawashima's Brain Training to improve medics' numeracy skills - and played a disastrous stroop test (40 years old again :-(.

However, the leveling up of the player in games like these, the constant quizzing of oneself and desire to communicate with friends to find out the answers in games like Samorost, all of this offers clues as to how course design can be harnessed for positive change in teaching and learning. College courses are painfully broken down into their constituent parts - it's no wonder students are left questioning why they are doing something when the whole story can only be seen retrospectively at the end of study.

What the probing and questioning in Samorost or Myst shows us is how this 'bittiness' can be used to our advantage when we do have all these small modules and courses - turn them into levels, where cheat sheets can be created by students who are there first for those who are slower. You can choose to use the cheatsheet for fewer marks or carry on struggling through until you get it yourself. The process of teaching (for the stronger students) takes some to their zone of proximal development, while learning by doing keeps those weaker students engaged.

Just an idea ;-).

Don't integrate. Evolve
And this is it. These are all just ideas until someone tries them out. We are already seeing oodles of innovation all over the country around some of these ideas. I know no-one who's attempting them all and that's just as it should be. If we spend less time on each one, just 'integrating' it into our teaching and learning, then we will see more and more old things taught with new toys.

What we have to do is choose one or two of these ideas and run with it as long as it takes, failing a little, sharing how and why so that our collective intelligence helps everyone. Eventually we'll not have integrated technology, we'll have done something far more powerful. We'll have evolved our teaching and learning to a new level.

April 26, 2007

Seven ways to avoid pain while you train - Paul Clothier

Paul Clothier is a training guru from England via the States and is presenting just before me at the Irish Computer Society's 10th Annual Conference. He's providing seven things that trainers need to bear in mind to "train without pain". I've been up since 5am and blogging will keep me from glazing over - he's also got some great repartie, so here goes...

  1. Know your stuff
    "If you don't know your stuff then you can't teach". It's an obvious point in the traditional trainer mentality, but proves problematic in a technology world when you don't know what's going to be coming around the corner. We've never known, but now the gaps between innovations are lasting days, not years. It seems obvious, but maybe there's a halfway house between this statement and the ability not to be afraid of not knowing. Being the trainer in an ICT class is not all about imparting knowledge. His next point begins to address this...
  2. Teach less
    Paul suggests being 'a guide on the side' instead of the "sage of the stage" (don't spend to much time in front of the class because the class will start to think you're a pain in the... ;-). Make them teach what they find out, facilitate and coach, find out what they want to learn, interact more, ask questions all the time (although ask the right ones and persevere when the learner doesn't want to think)... This last point is something that trainers feel more than others since "that's what we pay them to do - tell me how, don't ask me how"). No-one's suggested empowering learners with their own, longer term projects containing many aims instead of working on exercises from one unit test to another. I'm happy about that - it's what I'm talking about to some degree.
  3. Be Flexible
    When things don't go right you need to be more flexible to be able to move on. For classroom teachers this is a given. For trainers with an app to teach it might actually be more tricky to do this. Makes me think of teaching blogs and RSS with string when you have no computers (was that Darren or Miguel?).
  4. Be yourself
    Don't know the answer when it comes to technology? Say so. Get it on the feedback form so that you have a reminder to look it up.
  5. Own the room
    He's saying that the trainer needs to be assertive (making the students turn off their phones? - maybe a mislaid example, IMO). But his essence is that with adult trainers there can be situations where the learners want to lead the pace and direction. Is that wrong? He's making the comparison between an airline pilot (who wouldn't ask the cabin where he was to fly) with a trainer. But I think the trainer might well ask where the lesson should be going next, where they've been and how long it might take them to get there.
  6. Focus
    This is a bit of rant against mobile phones again, against multitasking. What of Prensky's research summary showing that kids' brains are actually evolving to be able to multitask better than their ancestors. What will our learners of the future (and our trainers of the future) make of concentrating on one thing at a time?
  7. Don't take it personally
    Evaluations at the end of courses, if they've not gone very well, can be uncomfortable. "Difficult learners" can leave you feeling down-trodden and not wanting to teach them any more. Again, if you've taught in a High School this is a skill you learn fast just to survive. Good, all the same, to be reminded of it.
    IMO, it's great when participants are given the chance to comment on the trainer, separately from the course, so that they themselves can make the distinction between the nature of the course (learning to set up a blog is pretty dull) and the trainer (who can be brill and make a dull thing less boring).
    There's also the experience I had this last weekend - the student who looks miserable for two hours and then tells you it's the best course they've ever been on. Eh? Frustrating but true.

April 03, 2006

HigherEd BlogCon has lift-off!

The HigherEd BlogCon Teaching strand is off to a flying start this week. My own contribution will  go live on Friday: Teaching information literacy - who's teaching the teachers. It's probably not what it says on the tin - at first - but is worth bearing with as I go through why unis need to blog, and why high schools should be preparing youngsters for a social, networked, interlinked future.

Let me know what you think of it and leave a comment here or over at the Higher Ed Blog Con blog.

I'll be in the strange situation of giving a presentation in two places at the same time. As the HigherEdBlogCon takes my presentation live I'll be blogging and podcasting in Manchester. Hopefully the train journey down there will give me plenty of time to write a post or two - things to tell, after all!

January 24, 2006

InstaPodcast for Lecturers

In today's MediaGuardian is the news that University lecturers (and conference presenters, and classroom teachers of the chalk-and-talk variety) have been waiting for.

By utilising Apple's QuickTime and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) technologies, a development program being piloted in Europe in the spring, the lecturer will be able to record his or her own "performance" - their slides, notes and details of student assignments as they deliver them live to the students in the lecture hall. Once the lecture is over, the technology behind the system can turn the content into suitable files and automatically upload them to Apple's iTunes network or connect it to RSS feeds that students, and others, can subscribe to.

Obviously this is destined to increase sales of iPod Videos, but this will once more reduce the time it takes to make screencasts of lectures and allow the unique feel of a live lecture to come through in the recording. And, in any case, the result will be viewable on any computer.

This, coupled with Garageband 3's enhanced podcasting, is moving towards the completion of the lecturer's toolbox, allowing pre-meditated enhanced podcasts and live lectures to be podcast within the hour.

November 14, 2005

Podcasting invades Higher Education

Came across this Educause podcast on podcasting in Higher Education. It features interviews from Duke University, where the Duke iPod project was launched in 2004 to measure their use in a Higher Ed setting.

I began to get excited: an inside view on the Duke project, about which I had heard some negative musings. The negative musings were right.

The interviews are interesting, but in a disappointing way. The first thing I notice is how the students talk about the artwork you can see on the new iPod colour screen as you listen to the music album. No-one talks about using the iPod as a learning tool. They do talk about songs. A lot. They also talk about the sturdy, small, durable unit.

Ah, then they talk about the use of it as a portable hard drive. Wow. Do we not have memory / flash drives for that? Do we need at $300 iPod to do that or a $13 Flash drive?

A year on from the Duke iPod experiment
The ease of the recording with a microphone is mentioned. Well, I've listened to recordings on an iPod. Not impressed. Trying to capture a lecture from the back of the hall? Hopeless. Better, though, is the use of the iPod to record data in the field. Then there's the story of the technically competent biology tutor who made an enhanced podcast about leaves and their latin names. Hmm, better, but still not making me excited about iPods in education.

The cost
Documentation, training, systems and marketing costs well outstripped the costs of the actual hardware. One student mentions the fact he bought an iRiver, because it was cheaper. I'm sure he found the recording quality better, too. But is the cost borne by the University worth the gains the students may have experienced? The fact is, there is no data linking MP3 use to improved results in this particular case.

An area worth spending time, not money, getting right
I am a great believer in MP3 players and recorders in education, but I am becoming highly sceptical when I continue to see public money spent in its thousands on iPod or MP3 projects that have no pedagogical underpinning. Teachers are being encouraged to blunder blindly into a new way of teaching and learning with no support, no extra time, no research monitoring the use and effect of the equipment.

I am happy to be working with some great individuals at East Lothian who are taking the time to look at how these new tools could be used and how to use equipment kids already have in their homes and at school. If the East Lothian podcasting project gets off the ground soon it will be with a lot of forethought into how this will really benefit the people that count: the learners.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

Ewan’s education keynotes & MasterClasses

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Do you worry that your school or district could better harness its people, digital technology or physical space? Do you want some actionable inspiration, a mentor for a learning journey with your staff?

In a keynote or masterclass we can give them concrete ideas based on experience, enthusiasm fired by a vision of what can be, and backup before and after to make it happen for them.

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