Digital Disconnect

29 October 2008

This from Ray Tolley on the Naace mailing list

The ‘digital disconnect’ is alive and well… “kids tell us they power down to come to school.”

Heppell on ICT, creativity and the need for systemic change

22 July 2007

In a discussion in the Naace online community (1), Stephen Heppell comments on the ever-changing nature of tools and the permanence of ICT as a force for creativity. His comments resonate with the ‘practice’ side of my model in the previous post and how it can be counter to the theory/system side.

Heppell reflects on young people’s changing usage of tools – MySpace is so yesterday, Facebook today, something else tomorrow. Further, he points out that young people never e-mail now. My step daughter added a different lens to this – they do e-mail but only when communicating with adults or when they are passing on links, files etc.

Some selected quotes from Heppell’s comments are posted here (reproduced from the posting to the Naace mailing list by permission of Stephen Heppell, they should not be reproduced without citing this context)

“Most efforts that I can remember to establish standards in educational ICT have failed. And that is no loss. They hold everything back … The whole world of ICT is so organic and changes so rapidly – one minute MySpace is cool, the next it’s where your grandad goes. Just as adults get their blackberries finally emailing to each other, so children have stopped emailing altogether (“it’s what your dad does..”). And so on.”

And then, on the need for systems and policy to match students’ ambitions:

“Systems are never ambitious for children. Children are, so are their teachers, parents and others are too, but without a shared vision of just how good all this can be, it all founders into a generation of coasting kids delivering on dull targets. If you word search the “Higher Standards, Better Schools For All” white paper for example you will find the word “creativity” is entirely absent, as indeed is the word “ingenuity”.

“[I , and others,] constantly see, and are delighted by, just how ambitious children can be for their learning – especially where it is mixed age, project based, over a decent length of time, shared and not capped in any way. We need to lock that ambition into policy.”

On students a leaders of learning

“Last week I was in a school working with a group of young secondary children who were busy designing a CPD workshop to bring their teachers up to speed with the cool things they might do on Facebook, with why poking isn’t rude any more, with Bebo and myArtSpace and YouTube Comments and so on. They were very sanguine about what their teachers needed to know and were in turn interested as to the ideas their teachers might have about using these new places and spaces in learning. There is a rich irony in imagining that down the corridor their teachers might have been busy parsing a policy document to plan the ICT curriculum for those same children!”

On the need for assessment ot be relevant to this debate:

“I think if Hollywood can measure satisfaction as people leave the rough cut of a movie (and then fund the re-shoot of an ending as with Pride and Prejudice in the US version) then we can measure creative esteem, ingenuity, delight, satisfaction and so on. All or any would be more helpful measures than cohort aggregate exam passes.”

On his related projects:

“Have a look at or indeed at if you want to see where I imagine all this will be going. The learnometer project is already under way.”

(1) Naace is the association for the advancement of ICT in education. Its community has a private mailing list from which these comments are drawn (they should not be reproduced without citing this context)

Pupil voice

29 March 2007

So what of my aim about personal constructs of learning?

I had an interesting meeting about some research into undertaken by Barry Mearns, ICT consultant with Leicestershire’s School Improvement Service. The stimulus for his work was the latest round of subject leader development meetings and his belief (with which I wholeheartedly concur) that pupils (or students) have much to tell us about the way in which learning and teaching is organised. The students that Barry interviewed are currently in year 10 ICT groups in a county 14-19 college and there is an opportunity here for me to build on this in my future research by talking to the same students next year. Thanks to Roy Roberts at the college for making the connection for me.

This notion of “pupil voice” is becoming increasingly visible in teacher development activities that I come across. Initially with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and now with the DfES.

Looking on the DfES’ research informed practice (TRIPS) website I see that Pupil Voice is an emerging strand in the literature also. Some findings from the papers ther are given below. The first with its comment about constructivism is interesting itself. Maybe there is something here about the climate in the particular classes? Was uncertainty not a feature students expected n the mathematics classes investigated? How generalisable is there claim, given its surprising nature.

Dorman and Adams (2004) concluded “that teachers need to ensure their classrooms are high quality teaching and learning environments. Student confidence was likely to be raised in classrooms characterised by high levels of co-operation, harmony, genuine teacher support, student cohesiveness, task orientation and equity. Teachers who dwelt on student failures rather than helping them to build progression and who created an environment characterised by competition and conflict did not improve levels of student confidence.”

They went on to say that “Two particular concepts have been found in other research to have a positive effect on student learning. The first is constructivism, in which students make sense of the world by linking new ideas to understandings they have already built up. The second is pupil dialogue, which proposes that pupils develop their understanding through discussion. There is a broadly accepted view that constructivist learning environments support academic efficacy. So the researchers were surprised that their results showed little variation in student academic efficacy that could be accounted for by the … scales specifically intended to look at constructivist classrooms.

One possible explanation, proposed by the researchers, is “that constructivism is concerned with critical thinking and higher order learning, whereas academic efficacy concerns one’s ability to perform specific academic tasks. They suggest that it is feasible that constructivism engenders a degree of uncertainty which, in a traditional school system which values certainty, could create a loss of confidence in students. “

Whitehead and Clough (2004) “set out to explore the views of students on the factors which they thought helped or hindered their learning. The 139 Year 8 pupils came from two schools in an EAZ. In this first stage report, the researchers found that students preferred learning activities which enabled them to work in friendship groups through practical work and discussion with peers. Many students disliked whole class work. They were motivated by a variety of factors, including future prospects. 80% of pupils identified poor behaviour by others as the main factor hindering their learning. The research found the majority of pupils responded positively to being consulted about their learning environment.”

McIntyre et al (2005) “found considerable agreement between pupils in their views of teaching and learning. They preferred lessons that were less teacher-led and appreciated interactive teaching that gave them ownership of their learning. They also wanted more opportunities to collaborate with their peers.”

Elsewhere, a study by Cresswell et al (2006) for the NCSL looks at the links between personalisation (or flexibility as they conclude it to be) of the 14-19 curriculum. Here they cite the importance of pupil voice and the key role played by applied qualifications, including ICT, in leveraging personalisation.

Cresswell, L et al (2006) Personalising the curriculum at 14–19, NCSL Research Associate report available online at accessed March 2007

Dorman, J. and Adams, J., (2004) Associations between students’ perceptions of classroom environment and academic efficacy in Australian and British secondary schools in Westminster Studies in Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, April 2004

McIntyre D et al (2005), What can teachers learn from listening to their pupils? in Research Papers in Education, 20 (2) pp. 149-168

Whitehead, J. and Clough, N. (2004), Pupils, the forgotten partners in Education Action Zones in Journal of Education Policy Vol. 19, No. 2, March 2004