The Death of Classroom Conversation

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“…It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

Dickens: Tale of two Cities

We live in an age in which those who have knowledge, the thinking goes, have power. Nations compete with nations to climb up the greasy PISA tables in the yah boo sucks gameplay of our kids are better than your kids! Information is available on computers, on phones and every classroom is bedecked with technology in the mistaken belief that it is the machine that will get our kids to succeed. It’s the zeitgeist: this is ‘the information age’, in which children need twenty-first century skills in order to survive! But for all our cumulative wisdom this is also an age of foolishness and our biggest folly is found in the technological distractions in our classrooms. As Nicholas Carr puts it in his book ‘The Shallows’ (p116) “when we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”

In “The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind” Michael Oakeshott wrote that: “As civilized human beings, we are the inheritors… of a conversation, begun in the primeval forests and extended and made more articulate in the course of centuries. It is a conversation which goes on both in public and within each of ourselves.” The conversant classroom is central to a civilised education in which pupils begin to pursue wisdom through human relationships, a teacher unfolds ways of seeing the world by introducing pupils to knowledge, thought, questioning, argument, articulate conversation and practice. In her book ‘Reclaiming Conversation, the Power of Talk in a Digital Age’ Sherry Turkle writes that: “We face a flight from conversation that is also a flight from self-reflection, empathy and mentorship.” It is through our fetishising of technology that we threaten to ruin our pupils’ sense of self and sense of others that is at the heart of the pursuit of wisdom. The more we fill our classrooms with machines the central pivot around which all conversations permeate is lost. Instead of their conversation becoming extended and more articulate, young people converse in shorter, less articulate, fear filled, aphorisms and grunts.

We are told that the jobs that have yet to be invented will require multi tasking individuals who can adapt easily to whatever situation in which they find themselves but these mythic individuals are ones that will live entirely in the shallows. Multi-tasking is impossible, instead of doing one thing well, you end up doing two or more things badly. Brain-dying, the multi-tasker might be able to function as a servant of a well oiled machine and deliver burgers quickly, but as high functioning individuals or, indeed, team-workers they will forever be looking for their next instruction or target to get them up to the next level in the computer game shaped lives the machines envisage for them.

Instead of saving our youth from this fate, far too many schools sell the souls of their students so that they might cohabit with the tech devil. School students face innumerable interactive whiteboards, they stare at hand held devices, they moving quickly between one class and another where more screens face them, with ever more jazzier and faster imagery ‘pimped up’ to catch the attention of the kids’ tiring eyes. Pupils write and research with screens, their eyes flit between one link and another, and they never arrive at an in depth reading of anything. Sure, pupils can cut and paste, and look for superficial links, as long as wikipedia or an algorithm or two leads them that way. But they can’t concentrate.

Some teachers encourage this shallowness by filling their lessons with little tricks which perpetuate the idea that kids can’t concentrate. The teacher who adapts her teaching for ever shorter concentration spans is part of the problem. Instead of slow, attention building activities these teachers base their entire lesson on the mistaken belief that what is needed are more ‘engaging’ activities. “More pace!” And one task is hastily replaced by another. Worksheets, and display material add to this impression – all headlines, bullet points and no substance. Most destructively, instead of a conversational classroom, discussion is replaced by a quick fire collection of questions blurted out by a teacher, a randomly targeted child is chosen quickly followed by one after another in quick succession for their bullet pointed responses. And then, quick, a video is needed! – get onto that Interactive Whiteboard – no longer than six minutes mind!

After school, the kids go on their journey home, staring at phones and at home they stare at their screens with the light disturbing their every night into the darkest and earliest hours and into the darkest recesses of the online world. Severely tired when they are woken up to get to school, they stare at their phone whilst munching on a cereal bar or a piece of toast, disengaged from life for another day to stare at screens at a school that hopes technology might engage them.

How will any child learn in this environment? Yes they will get through a delivered curriculum, but they won’t understand much of it. Education takes time. It also takes boredom, that moment before sense is made. So strip your classrooms of all technological devices, yes, tear down those IWBs. By all means have a room with tech in it, technology has its place, but its place should not be ubiquitous! If you bring it into classrooms ensure that tech is the slave to the pupils and not the other way round.

Schools must offer something quite different, they should be almost spiritual places of study. Just as a place of prayer can offer sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of our increasingly fraught lives, so schools should offer something different. Instead of looking into the dead eye of the iPad, we should get pupils to look into each others’ living eyes, and listen to each others vibrant voices. Students and teachers should belong to a ‘conversant order’, worshipping the slow and steady pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. We need to replace the age of distraction with the age of conversation and for this to occur teachers need to cease worshipping at the altar of technology.

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57 thoughts on “The Death of Classroom Conversation

  1. Leah K Stewart

    Tech is only the devil if we don’t know what big positive thing we want to do with it. I’m kicking myself for not being brave enough as a student to try negotiating part-time at school, because we weren’t having conversations – like you say – and, if the aim’s the grades I can do that without dedicated instruction. I’d have come in for lessons that were going to be different and stayed away from the mush. With that extra time and space I’d have done only what I’ve started doing in the last year; used the internet to explore what I care about and see what I can do to help. Within a year I’ve got myself commissioned work to write up the Politics in Education Summit (now selling the Full Transcripts & Presentation Slide Package from my website) and presented at a ResearchED conference – all while living in Germany (the physical location life’s taken me to). Last year I was like those brain-dead students you describe, until I decided it was a horrible way to live and gave myself permission to start researching and expressing what I care about using the best resources possible… the internet. Love face to face group conversations, when they’re led well. I’d never lead them myself, for an extended time, because I’m introverted so it exhausts me. The best adult led conversation I’ve experienced was when the vicar came to our local youth club once a month to talk about a world issue. He was brilliant. I think this is what you mean by non-tech dialogue. Though dialogue with tech also happens and can be powerful… if we care about what we we’re trying to do with the tech, which many people still don’t.

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      1. Leah K Stewart

        Agree – how could I not. Fact is – we have stuff to do; big, like, sort ourselves and the world out stuff. So if I let my health deteriorate because of using technology (or because of anything – eating badly, drinking too much…) then I don’t get to create the positive things I want to create. How silly would that be? The issue, I think, is that the old industrial/corporate world has got us all thinking we need to ‘prepare’ for ‘life’ (by which they mean ‘a job’) so we’re not draining the economy. No point caring about my physical health if I’m just a replaceable cog. Why not watch reruns on netflix till my eyes bleed? Who cares. As long as I sign into my mindless shift it’s OK. In a big private UK company (so big they can’t fail) on an internship I landed, I discovered a huge chunk of the workers (degree/PhD qualified scientists & engineers) were suffering through RSI/back pains. If they cared about their work, they wouldn’t let themselves suffer. They’d have the good sense to look after themselves (even if that meant standing their ground with managers) instead of ploughing on knowing that when they do have to stop working, when these issues get so bad, they’ll get sick pay from the company because working there hurt them. It’s childish and scared me to see this in the adults I hoped to admire. I’d like each person to feel validated to take action on the positive they care about creating – and then technology will find it’s place.

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  2. memneon (@memneon)

    I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Which is quite a change because I used to embrace it almost uncritically. When PowerPoint came along I thought it was the answer to my teaching prayers – now I can zap them all with lots of fancy animations, ‘bite-sized’ bullet points, and great visuals! But then, after the 57th slide, I wondered why they all looked so bored .. So I moved on to interactive concept maps, researching them for my Master’s dissertation. But the problem there was some (I’ll resist the term ‘non-visual’ learners) preferred linear/text-based approaches to learning. Another ‘magic bullet’ bit the post.. I’m an Educational apps developer now working on a ‘fractal’ knowledge building app so I retain a degree of faith in the power of technology. But I do share Martin’s deep reservations about its negative effects on human interaction – and his belief that this is central to the learning process. I’m also on a similar wavelength about the almost ‘spiritual’ quality of education when it’s done right. My instincts are that there’s a happy medium. But my fears are that those who ‘worship’ technology (the techno-evangelists in education and the policy wonks outside it who religiously attend all the high profile tech exhibitions and conferences but who invariably have no idea what effective learning actually looks like) are driving us inexorably towards a Brave New World emptied of quality and human value. And AI has barely hit us yet..

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      1. memneon (@memneon)

        That would be complete madness. There’s no technological substitute for the richness and flexibility of human interaction. Learning is fundamentally social. If we allow AI to blind us to that we’ll have learned nothing.

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  3. Howard Scott

    Some interesting and emotional observations and assumptions in this picture you’ve painted of kids lives. A picture that’s a bit of a caricature from my view. I’m a fan of Carr’s book, which has important questions at its core, but I think it’s over-simplified a much, much bigger, more complex argument. Let’s imagine that kids are as slavishly immersed in the screen as is claimed. If that’s happening anyway, then ”How are children supposed to learn in this environment?” becomes “how should we respond to this environment” – through activities that are more meaningfully constructed in learning contexts and, ironically, tech has a place in that. I would certainly want students to learn meaningful ways of using technologies and the Internet, precisely so they aren’t absorbed in the inert behaviours you describe. Staring into the screen is not as passive as you make it sound and facilitates communication in any number of ways.

    Schools should be a “spiritual place of study”. Spiritual places like churches? Sombre, oppressive, narrow-minded and quiet. Personally, I think study should be far more playful, chaotic and ludic; whilst conversation is all well and good, classrooms based on conversation are not entirely inclusive places to one and all.

    Sure, technology shouldn’t always be used, but how it’s used is the conversation of this debate – and there’s an astounding amount of low confidence around on this subject. Incidentally, the 21st Century jobs thing/multi-tasking thing is a good laugh, but research into learning technologies has shown that the so-called Knowledge Economy does require skills that reflect the ways that we are beginning to work (nothing to do with hypothetical jobs that don’t yet exist, though it’s clear that huge aspects of the economy are becoming more tech driven). Learning these ways of working is not technologically determininist, because often these skills have nothing to do with technologies, but technology can facilitate those processes of working.

    So, how does a school respond and avoid being ersatz or meaningless? I think this research increasingly reflects the wider culture and real world. Whether teachers and classrooms reflect that real world or not is personal choice. Obviously they don’t have to use technology all the time or bring it to thE forefront, but to act as if it doesn’t exist is ….well, weird. By the way, such research may not be aimed at schools and more towards workplace learning or courses in HE, so I’m sure being able to understand Proust, have a debate about vivisection or arguing about the reasons for wars in well structured essays is all still valid, also. Happy to point you in the direction of some of this research.

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      1. Howard Scott

        Cripes, you picked out one misappropriate phrase from the whole response I made. Nope, don’t think that’s what you’re saying. I do think I understood your post, thanks. Don’t want to tell people what’s what, but I know a fair bit about technology enhanced learning. I can tell you that applying technology well can support students, but it’s not really the tech that’s important it’s the affordances that arise from it, whether those are differentiating, inclusivity or access. As such, I can’t really see an argument, since students in my research report those values. Should we dispute them? I come from a position of scepticism but see the benefits after four years of research. And if this is about costs, the tech I use costs nothing to the institution or the students beyond what they have already (those with smart phones or home computers). I would gladly and emphatically advise the student in the chat room “searching purpose” of its worth. Just to be clear, I work in FE, so your school context may have different relevance (or not) but can’t really see how.

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      2. Martin Robinson Post author

        Have you researched the effect of the ubiquity of tech? Lesson in/lesson out – IWB to IWB – and what content is taught better due to tech? Which students are excluded by lack of tech? (Some obvious possibilities here but anything beyond that?) You raise the issue of costs, can you tell me how much has been spent on bringing tech into schools over the last twenty years in the UK?

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      3. Howard Scott

        No, all salient points but beyond my own study. I do think schools (the Government) should spend money on tech, though. Obviously not at any price,but it’s ubiquity means it is cheaper and often personally owned. What a wonderful range of resources and increased range of ways to learn are available to those in our decadent country, eh? Anyway, time is the main resource. Hopefully using tech to join up classroom time and their lifeworld by remote mean, by for example reminding kids of assessments or answering inquiries, embeds reflection, but how you go about measuring such a thing robustly is obscure, just as measuring the impact of reading a book is on critical thinking.

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      4. Chester Draws

        I hope I’ve put htis int he right spot:

        Hopefully using tech to join up classroom time and their lifeworld by remote mean, by for example reminding kids of assessments or answering inquiries,

        No, no, and thrice NO! I arrive at school earlier than most and leave later (due to after school tutorials and sports). I often work nights, weekends and holidays. I am not a slacker. But I am not, and never will be, on call for student inquiries in my down time. Seriously, I’m not paid anything like enough to be answering student questions when they might want it. This concept of students having teachers on call is hopelessly unworkable. If nothing else, they will learn that they don’t have to pay attention in class, they can just Skype Mr Draws in the evening if they are having problems.

        This is one of the major dangers of technophilia — the extension of what can be done into what should be done, merely because it can be done.

        For the record, I told my Head of Department that if he buys me an interactive whiteboard, I shall write on it with my ordinary pens.

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      5. Leah K Stewart

        Hi Chester, I get you. When I was in my grad job they kept offering me a smartphone which I always turned down. It helped that I’d spend a year in Sweden on Erasmus where the work ethic is; if the job is not being done in the time we agreed then either we need to discuss training for me, or it’s impossible and you need to get more people or rethink the business model. The company was always fine with my unconventional stance on this – never stopped them offing pay raises. Even now the most advanced mobile technology I own is a 5 year old laptop and a text/call only phone. We each choose how much tech we accept into our lives or, at least, I hope we each have the privilege of that choice.

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  4. José Picardo

    Martin, the way you caricature the use of technology for learning rather shows up your lack of knowledge and awareness as to how technology actually supports learning wherever it is used effectively. Children do not stare into the “dead eye of an iPad” all day – I presume you’d have no problem with children staring into the “dead eye” of a printed book. Children do not stop conversing with each other or with their teacher simply because there is a projector in the room. Children do not multi-task, they do one thing at a time; they think hard about things and in doing so, they learn. This is a question of good teaching and discipline, not technology. Children do not go home and stare into screens until the early hours of the morning. And if they do, where are their parents? Is it the technology’s fault? In summary, you are, quite simply, drawing erroneous conclusions from a misinformed and deeply biased perspective. And it shows, just like it would show if I attempted to argue against your considerable knowledge of the Trivium.

    With regards to relying on Carr as your source of common sense on matters technological, I refer you to the 2010 review of The Shallows in the New York Times:

    There is little doubt that the Internet is changing our brain. Everything changes our brain. What Carr neglects to mention, however, is that the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that the Internet and related technologies are actually good for the mind. For instance, a comprehensive 2009 review of studies published on the cognitive effects of video games found that gaming led to significant improvements in performance on various cognitive tasks, from visual perception to sustained attention. This surprising result led the scientists to propose that even simple computer games like Tetris can lead to “marked increases in the speed of information processing.” One particularly influential study, published in Nature in 2003, demonstrated that after just 10 days of playing Medal of Honor, a violent first-person shooter game, subjects showed dramatic increases in ­visual attention and memory.

    Carr’s argument also breaks down when it comes to idle Web surfing. A 2009 study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that performing Google searches led to increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, at least when compared with reading a “book-like text.” Interestingly, this brain area underlies the precise talents, like selective attention and deliberate analysis, that Carr says have vanished in the age of the Internet. Google, in other words, isn’t making us stupid — it’s exercising the very mental muscles that make us smarter.

    By the way, I find it extremely curious that you should write a piece decrying a technology-induced lack of conversation in your blog and that you should choose the internet as the medium to publish it. The fact that you did so allowed me to read it and reflect on it only minutes after you translated your thoughts into pixels. All the while I think I managed fairly successfully to avoid “cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning”. But you might beg to differ.

    In any case, the conversation continues.

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    1. Chester Draws

      found that performing Google searches led to increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, at least when compared with reading a “book-like text.”

      Do you know that there is a school of thought that any argument that uses neurobiology to support it is implicitly wrong, because they’d use really good arguments if they had them? There’s a lot to be said for that line of thinking, I believe.

      That there is more happening in the prefrontal cortex using Google is not a surprise. The students are coping with movement on the screen, with noticing the different logo Google has today, with having to control the mouse, etc. That doesn’t mean learning is happening though. Books are the best way to give solid information precisely because they are simple in use and they more or less become invisible to the user. It’s why books for adults who want solid information don’t have coloured text, or change fonts or such. Keep distractions to a minimum is pretty much the first rule of teaching.

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  5. Martin Robinson Post author

    I don’t think the Internet is a bad thing. I think the ubiquity of tech in classrooms might be. “I have been given 30 iPads to teach with, can anyone recommend any good apps?” – a question I read in a ‘chat room’ (is this ironic too?) – this, to me is technology in search of a purpose, like characters in a Pirandello play looking for an author. Tech has its place, as I say.

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  6. José Picardo

    Firstly, having technology available does not mean it will be used constantly. Why do you think ubiquity is in itself a bad thing? Injudicious use of the technology is indeed a problem, but that is not a technology problem. In the same way that using a textbook poorly is not a textbook problem.

    Secondly, the “30 iPads” example simply shows a lack of leadership, training and awareness. Again, this is not a technology problem. In the same way that teachers need time and training to become familiar with a new textbook, specification or syllabus, they must be given the time, space and support to familiarise with any new technology that is introduced into the classroom. I deal with this issue in slightly more depth here.

    The point surely isn’t that technology can be used poorly (anything can, even the Trivium!). The point is that tech can be used effectively. Rather than make unsubstantiated claims about the negative effects technology may have (what proof do you have that tech ubiquity is a bad thing other than your gut feeling?), wouldn’t we better off studying when and how technology is effective so that we can improve teaching and learning as a result?

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  7. Martin Robinson Post author

    Some evidence:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/too-much-exposure-to-smartphone-screens-ruins-your-sleep-study-shows-10019185.html

    http://www.iser.com/resources/screen-time.html

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pediatricians-no-more-than-2-hour-screen-time-kids/

    https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000355.htm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19870199

    http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/06/health/screen-time-rules-change-pediatricians/

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34139196

    http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/28/343735856/kids-and-screen-time-what-does-the-research-say

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  8. José Picardo

    Link 1 – It’s about children not using tablets or phones for an hour before going to bed. Seems sound advice to me. How is this evidence for “the death of the classroom conversation”.

    Link 2 – This deals with the amount of time children spend playing video games or watching TV instead of studying:

    Research and common sense tell us that as the amount of time spent watching television and playing video games goes up, the amount of time devoted not only to homework and study

    What if they are using a device to study? Is that “screen time” in this sense? And how does this support your claim that technology is licking the classroom conversation?

    Link 3 – Again, this deals with screen time as entertainment:

    Children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day

    Again. Sound advice. Is using your iPad to complete your homework “screen time” in this context? And how does this relate to your post?

    Link 4 – Same again.

    Link 5 – I will forgive you on this occasion for proffering Dr Sigman as “evidence”

    Link 6 – Once more, this refers to screen time as entertainment, not used for academic purposes.

    Link 7 – As far as I can see, this article deals with abuse, not use of screens. In any case, claims that technology is change our brains (in a bad way) are disputed in neuroscience. See this, for example.

    Link 8 – Again, this deals with children using digital devices for entertainment instead of for study. How does this further your claim?

    Link 9 – Once more, this deals with the consumption of media. Although at least in this one there is the recognition that there is such a thing as “educational screen time”.

    So, I must ask again, what do you think this is evidence of? And How does it link to your assertion that is killing the classroom conversation?

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    1. Martin Robinson Post author

      http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/10/reclaiming-conversation-sherry-turkle/409273/

      http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/10/reclaiming-conversation-sherry-turkle/409273/

      https://www.gov.uk/government/news/sedentary-lifestyles-and-too-much-screen-time-affect-childrens-wellbeing

      http://m.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1513555/beware-negative-effects-too-much-screen-time-children

      Screen time… includes in classrooms and at home … more later

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      1. José Picardo

        Sherry Turkle is the US’s Susan Greenfield. They both present her own dystopian views, social critique and cultural commentary as evidence based. They have both been criticised for cherry picking their evidence and their claims are widely disputed.

        The last two deal again with use of screens for leisure purposes.

        If you like, I can share with you the links to research articles from when writing Educate 1:1 (you might even want to read the book!), all of which present an alternative view. But I suspect, neither of us want to be here all night! 😉

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  9. Martin Robinson Post author

    A large amount of screen time, whether leisure, at work, at school is not a good thing. Short attention span thinking by teachers etc – not good. Following a conversation- thinking, slow absorption of ideas, reading books, discussing, listening… And sometimes, sometimes screen time are good….

    But not every lesson. IWB is part of the problem – switch them off rather than have them on all day every day. Don’t kill classes by power point etc…

    You seem to be saying lots of tech good. All I’m saying is teach and use tech when necessary in moderation. Do not start with wondering what to do with it, oh, ok let’s do another presentation – and you tube vid etc

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  10. José Picardo

    A large amount of screen time, whether leisure, at work, at school is not a good thing. Short attention span thinking by teachers etc – not good. Following a conversation- thinking, slow absorption of ideas, reading books, discussing, listening…

    If this is your opinion, fine. But I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest that doing your homework on a computer or reading a book on your iPad is bad for you in the way you describe.

    IWB is part of the problem – switch them off rather than have them on all day every day.

    Again. If this is your opinion, it’s all good. However, it is a fact that IWBs can be put to excellent use in the hands of a skilled teacher. Just because IWBs are often poorly used doesn’t mean they cannot be put to good use. This is often a leadership problem, not a technology problem.

    All I’m saying is teach and use tech when necessary in moderation.

    I would say use it when it’s effective and when it adds value. And if it does so, why in moderation? If the learning is improved by its judicious use, should we not encourage its use?

    Do not start with wondering what to do with it, oh, ok let’s do another presentation – and you tube vid etc

    That’s bad teaching, not bad technology.

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    1. Martin Robinson Post author

      Do you think kids ‘using’ screens should be the norm in most lessons, most days? Your opinion seems to be have screens switched on for most of the day, what is the evidence that this is a good thing?

      My piece is about teachers use of tech and the amount of screen time kids have every day it is also about teaching for the bizarre idea of the ‘short attention span’, my piece says use tech when it will be the slave of the pupil and not the other way round. I am not talking about good practice, though your idea of good practice might be different than mine.

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      1. José Picardo

        Do you think kids ‘using’ screens should be the norm in most lessons, most days?

        I’ve already told you what I think. Technology, like any tool should be used when it supports or adds value to the learning. Could this happen every day? Of course it can. Could this happen in every lesson? Of course it can! Does this mean it happens all the time? This is where your biases seem to get the best of you and shows how little you know about how tablets are actually used in practice where they are used effectively. Of course it does not mean that. Tablets are used sometimes, for specific purposes. They may be used once or twice, not all the time.

        Your opinion seems to be have screens switched on for most of the day, what is the evidence that this is a good thing?

        That is not my opinion. I agree it is not a good thing to be in front of a screen all day. Once again: this is not what happens. See my earlier point about you misunderstanding how tablets are actually used.

        My piece is about teachers… good practice…

        Martin, at every opportunity you have made unsubstantiated assertions linking technology to this poor practice you have highlighted. You have then submitted a number of irrelevant links as “evidence” for your assertions. I agree that there is plenty of bad practice around, but I suspect we will disagree emphatically as to what the cause of this is. You seem to point your finger at technology, despite the not insubstantial evidence that when technology is used to support established classrooms practices it makes great teaching and learning even better. For this reason, I submit that you have got it wrong on this occasion.

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      2. Martin Robinson Post author

        Now you’re talking about tablets, I’m talking about all screen use. As you seem to know the answer – tell me how much screen time do kids get in schools? You seem to imply used a bit is ok to support bits of learning, which I would agree with. You also say my biases get in the way, but how long is the IWB on for in classes where they are used? Do you have an opinion on this? You agree it is not good to be in front of a screen all day – this is my point. It is the use of tech I’m talking about… Selling your soul to the tech devil is different than using tech in a useful way.

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    1. Dean Stokes

      What a ridiculous comment. Looking at anything for too long can cause eye strain. Activities could include reading, writing and driving. The link you posted even states there are unlikely to be any long term problems, just short term discomfort which is exactly why students are taught to take screen breaks.

      Since WebMD is clearly a reliable source for you, it might be helpful to read this general article about eye strain: http://www.m.webmd.boots.com/a-to-z-guides/eye-strain

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      1. José Picardo

        Martin, a lot of printed book reading can also result in eye strain. Having a walk in the sunshine can cause eye strain. Still not sure of what the point of pointing out that abuse of screens can also cause eye strain actually is. As I have said many times now, children are not using a screen all day at school. Does pretending they do suit your case? Yes, it does. I, for one, would like to base my conclusions on facts, however.

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  11. kirstendurward

    Interesting position. I agree with some of it, I am constantly arguing for guidelines for younger learners on screen time, for their eyes and for their developing bodies. On the other hand, we now spend time actively teaching children how to tallk and listen in partner work, whereas previously we just expected it to happen. Children practice paraphrasing and asking questions to elicit more information, they practice wait time too. So I think they are listening and learning more than ever from one another. Certainly my 8 and 9 year olds can self manage a book discussion in small groups for 25 minutes and are often disappointed when I ask them to stop. Certainly they love to share their writing with one another and input their thoughts. Certainly they also love to quietly read print books for 15 mins or longer (again grumbling when asked to stop) Our visual or artefact supported ‘see, think, wonder’ engagements provoke lots of discussion, thinking and questioning. Math is an hour and approximately 40 mins of that is practical exploration or problem solving, I see kids tussle with thinking and re-thinking and extending their thinking in Math, and go back to the drawing board willingly when asked to prove it a different way now. And science can go on for even longer. Drama they love too and Art, none of which requires a screen. But there are so many ways in which technology has opened up and supported learning, that I would find hard to give up now. Firstly and foremostly the ipad/tablet has so many functions – we use it for children to gather data on the environment which informs their processing, speaking and writing at a later stage in learning, We use it for them to listen to their own reading and moderate for fluency, we use it to create books and blogs and videos to share our ideas and thinking with the wider community of students and parents. We believe in ourselves as authors and creators of content. Sharing a video of science instructions on an ipad means groups of children can manage their learning and do not have to refer to the teacher, they can also work at their own pace. It is transformational. Well resourced sites open up information to all kinds of learning on current affairs and global issues. Children love to read and respond to these issues. They don’t flick between when given a focus and they know they are accountable to report back to a buddy or in some other way with the whole class. Or by using a padlet to instantly see where everyone’s understanding is, and we can all learn from one another. Then with the whiteboards, putting aside the affect of interactive learning for concepts such as fractions, there is the power of the Skype Expert. Talking with authors in the USA, learning about the climate in Sudan from children your own age, the opportunities for learning are boundless. With google apps, shared and collaborative learning blossoms. Last year I ran a 3 week poetry unit in January. One group of boys kept going with their collaborative collection, independent of classroom time, and by June had published a collection of over 100 poems. Staring into screens? I think it is a whole lot more than that!

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  12. José Picardo

    How can I give you UK facts? I can only tell you about the schools I know about. Or are you suggesting that, despite my knowing what goes on in certain schools where tech is used effectively, my not knowing the facts for the whole of the UK is comparable to your lack of knowledge and awareness around this topic?

    It sounds very much as you are trying to kill this particular conversation, Martin.

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      1. José Picardo

        No, I don’t. The point I have been making repeatedly – and that you keep ignoring – is that you are talking about poor practice. This is not a technology problem. It’s a teaching problem. Yet you’re only suggestion appears to be to eschew technology because: screen time. It does not add up.

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      1. Martin Robinson Post author

        As I say: By all means have a room with tech in it, technology has its place, but its place should not be ubiquitous! If you bring it into classrooms ensure that tech is the slave to the pupils and not the other way round.

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  13. José Picardo

    And as I say, you are still suggesting that the solution to this perceived problem of bad practice surrounding the use of tech is to reduce the amount of tech. I am suggesting that the solution to bad teaching practice is to invest on improving teaching practice. Technology, Martin, is not the problem. It’s not even part of the problem. Teachers can demonstrably teach better lessons thanks to technology. Teachers can use IWBs to spark off great conversations in lessons. Tablets can be used to support the processes involved in teaching and learning. The internet can be used to further the reading and continue the conversations. The suggestion that to teach well you need to switch off the technology is ludicrous.

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  14. memneon (@memneon)

    ‘Teachers can demonstrably teach better lessons thanks to technology’. This assertion seems self-evident (the examples you cite José). Yet to prove it you would have to do extensive research using control groups – with a very clear operational concept of ‘learning’. I’ve seen lots of claims that this research exists but have yet to read any conclusive – clear and robust – evidence. I’m not saying that doesn’t exist however so I’m happy to be guided.

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  15. mmiweb

    A number of thoughts on the conversation above – one facilitated by technology.

    (1) We do have to be careful in our definitions of technology – and be honest that we are all users of technology be that the pen, the paper book or the iPad (or other electronic devices) it is often easy to see technology as only “new” technology.

    (2) When the first national project on the development of technology was developed we had a statement “to know when and when not to use technology in the classroom” – pretty much all the teachers I meet who are users of “new” technology as an advisor, researcher, teacher educator, are careful and thoughtful users of technology – but they are also to lesser or greater degrees innovators, experimenters and explorers testing out the limits and the opportunities that these new technologies offer – they will make breakthroughs, mistakes, discoveries; they will be fooled by those wanting to see their wares and will influence those who are determined to improve teaching and learning, this is always the risk of those who want to push forward with possibilities as well as stay with the comfortable.

    (3) There is a need to map these new tools onto old models, but also a need to develop new models so why is the idea of computer software that “teaches a child” an anathema but paper software (a book) that does the same not? There will of course be the need for support and training but many of those who are the pioneers will become the trainers and supports (see Roger’s Innovation curve).

    (4) There will (probably) always be a need for humans in the classroom and learning will almost certainly involve social interaction but how these play out needs the exploration mentioned above.

    (5) Whilst pragmatically the measure of success is test scores – we need to be open to wider set of metrics

    There is no need to rush to the end of always or never but finding out the “when” and “how much” is being challengers by actions both within and without schools, at the moment we do not know what this will be and how it will work out. “Common sense” might suggest, “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” but common sense is not always proved correct.

    I think I want those who are using technology (with the caveat from 1 above) to be asking two questions:

    (a) How does the technology support, enhance or develop the pedagogy we are currently using?
    (b) How does the technology challenge us to develop new pedagogies?

    Paul H – digital immigrant and asylum seeker 😉

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  16. Pingback: The problem with #edtech debates – Shooting Azimuths

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