Monday, 26 May 2014

Getting Value for Money

Over the weekend I read a post from Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) called "iPads in the Classroom - are we machine gunning emus?" In it Tom argues that iPad adoption is an expensive exercise with
"little evidence that iPad adoption has any discernible effect on the educational outcomes of children whatsoever." 
Adding, "however shiny and groovy they are" they aren't necessarily the answer for under achieving children. His thoughts very much resonated with myself, as this an area of concern that I've had for a while. In 2011 I wrote a post called "They Want A Shiny New One", which outlined similar concerns about the way some schools were approaching the buying of what is an expensive piece of kit without any real vision about how they were going to use them. Over the last three years, since that post was written, the purchasing of iPads by schools has increased considerably, and this is now being exacerbated in Wales with money available through the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG). Most schools I'm now talking to are buying iPads with this year's increase in money and to be honest I doubt that many of them can honestly say what difference having these devices will make for their free school meals (FSM) children which is where the money is supposed to be targeted. It appears that they just want to have have iPads and the PDG is a means of getting them. 

To help schools it may be worthwhile for them to read "The Impact of Digital Technology" report from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). On page 15 in its conclusions and recommendations it says:
"Studies linking provision and use of technology with attainment tend to find consistent but small positive associations with educational outcomes. However, a causal link cannot be inferred from this kind of research. It seems probable that more effective schools and teachers are more likely to use ICT and digital technologies more effectively than other schools."
As I've seen written several times before, good teachers use good technology well, poor teachers will use good technology poorly. A good teacher will be able to use a resource or tool effectively, what ever it is. It could be an iPad, but equally it could be the ageing PC in the corner of the classroom, a poster, TV programme or a reference book from the school library.

As I have said previously I have no issue at all with the iPad. It is a fantastic personal device that has revolutionised the way the world uses technology. However, it is a product that comes at a premium cost, and I do question whether schools are getting value for money from them. You may have 50 iPads, but so what? What impact is this having on the pupils? The EEF toolkit says that digital technologies are high cost for moderate student progress. The iPad is most certainly at the higher cost end of educational technologies. Therefore couldn't the moderate improvement in student progress be made using digital technologies that provide greater value for money to a school?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

BBC Wales Reports

Isn't it funny the way the press report things as if it were fact? Take yesterday morning's report from the BBC called "Wales' schools left behind in digital age, experts claim". The article is basically saying that if we don't implement changes recommended in the ICT Steering Group report then we will be falling behind England where the changes come into effect in Sept 2014.  What caught my eye was the statement six lines in which says:
"a similar plan will not be introduced in schools in Wales for at least four years."
Four years? Where did this figure come from? I haven't seen anything announced by the Welsh Government saying that this is the predicted timescale of a new Computing PoS. Searching through the article I thought something must have been announced, but no, nothing. So who is it that's saying four years? Why not say 6 months, 1 year or 10 years? Four years seems to be an arbitrary figure, plucked from the ether by someone.

Interestingly this is the second piece in two weeks from BBC Wales on concerns over what they see as delays to the new curriculum, with the focus primarily on programming. I wonder where this story is coming from? Could there be vested interests pushing it for their own benefit? No, that's just silly.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Sutton Trust - EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit

If you are wondering about ways to spend your PDG effectively have a look at the Sutton Trust EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit. It provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. You'll find a wide selection of approaches that a school can take, along with the estimated cost, the availability and the quality of evidence, and finally the average impact expected estimated in terms of additional months progress pupils might be expected to make as a result of that approach being taken in the school.

We can see from this screen shot of the tool kit that Digital technology approaches are high cost approaches with moderate student progress, which is supported by extensive evidence. Whereas Collaborative learning approaches for instance is low cost that produces the approximately the same student progress. Certainly makes me think. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

PDG - "What really works?"

Welsh Government have just released some follow up Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) guidance for schools. "What really works?"is a useful guide intended to give practical advice to schools on appropriate approaches that will help poorer pupils overcome the additional barriers they face that prevent them from achieving their full potential. I must say I'm surprised and shocked to the core......not one single mention that buying 30 iPads with the grant is an approach that will help these pupils! #sarcasm

Monday, 5 May 2014

ICT and Numeracy Day

A very good day looking at numeracy and ICT at Clytha Primary School last Friday. One of the intentions of the day was also to focus on getting the most from resources that the school has. The school had purchased 2Simple's Purple Mash, so I looked at many of its tools that can support aspects of numeracy. The staff particularly enjoyed using LOGO, talking about shape and angle. Lots of good discussing between them to work out how to complete the challenges I set. In fact, I found it difficult to get them to go for their coffee break! We then looked at using databases (2Investigate) and opportunities for graphing with 2Graph and 2Count. In the afternoon my colleague Steve Singer gave an excellent introduction to 'Scratch' and finally we finished the day off with SMART Notebook tools that can help support the teaching of mathematics.

Building procedures in LOGO

Getting to grips with Scratch