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May 27, 2010



There's a danger that the pace of change is allowing gross over simplifications in assessments of the benefits of technologies in education, resulting in at best, wasted public resources and worse, further damage to our unprincipled education system. Ollie, you have done it yourself in this post. For example, scrabble on the board is a very substantially different game to just making words and scoring points: it is far more intellectually subtle than that and it is this subtlety that is is invisible to your analysis: the Alice example underlines this. The development of literacy skills is slowed down in a simplified medium such as is emulated by the device based books. Technologies mimick something else and do so in a lesser way. Take the interactive whiteboard for example, when it mimicks a blackboard it does so in a significantly inferior way. The capitalisation of that by the technology companies has been a wicked abuse of public trust and delivers almost nothing of value in the classroom for ten times the cost of what it tries to replace.

The far sighted head teacher will keep a black/whiteboard in every classroom: books on every shelf: pens and pencils in every desk: scrabble, chess and ludo in every library/learning space.

"Digital divide" is a cynical term which tries to intimidate people who are not "with it" that they are somehow lacking by comparison with those who are. I am a technophile, as you well know, but I heard alarm bells ringing as soon as I saw my first IWB. This post of yours scares the diddly out of me because head teachers and others that read and act upon it are not principled enough to recognise the potential for damage that digital technologies can do to our children.

Ollie Bray

I don’t know why the post should scare you Nick and I don’t know what head teachers would act on apart from my suggestions on overcoming barriers at the bottom of the post. I do hope that it would get them thinking though…

First of all I have not made an analysis on either scrabble or Alice?

At no point have I said that Alice for the iPad is better than the free paper version of the book or that scrabble the board game is better that seek and spell. I have said that they ‘may or may not be’ – my point is that people have to make up their own minds but that they do have to think about it. That is why both captions on the Alice and the scrabble slide say ‘what is the difference?’.

Again I’m not sure what your point about Interactive whiteboards is either – my point was about cost benefit analysis and how much value technology adds. In my example I compare an Interactive whiteboard to a flip camera – two very different types of technology. The main outcome being to try and make the audience understand that ICT is more that Interactive whiteboards and that technology is completely useless in schools unless it is used correctly.

The digital divide is a cynical term – which is why I have said there in not a significant one in the UK – but I do think there is one globally (as I mention in the presentation) and that is the one we should be worried about…

Finally, I think digital technology is damaging out children – but I also, tragically, don’t think we can stop this. Which is why I am completely committed to informing responsible use and promoting appropriate pedagogy surrounding the use of technology in schools.

Thanks again Nick.

Amanda Gerry

Hi Ollie,
I was at the Edinburgh University presentation and just wanted to say hi.

I thought the presentation was inspiring and was clear and concise and gave us some real food for thought (Yemi and I were still talking about it at supper that night!.

I think you helped many of us (techniphobes - is that a real word??) understand the many tools we may be able to use when engaging with young people and I am keen to learn more about this, I'm not sure we realised so many already exisited?

Next week we are starting some research with youth work practitioners to explore how some of the tradiitonal youth work methods could be used to engage young people on-line and the consent and privacy issues that we could encounter.

Your presentation has helped me prepare for this event and think about things in a differnt way so many thanks :) Amanda

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