Teachers demand overuse of technology in children – daily.

classroom-management-apps

The recommended time for school age children to use a screen is two hours per day. This figure has been used for a very long time. It varies slightly depending on use, but not significantly enough to support kids using them all day at school.

There are tools to help parents manage media time, but these don’t account for teacher time. One of the risks is exposure to media which glamourises risky behaviours, which we also know is something teenagers find thrilling and pay attention to. So it isn’ just the sedentariness of watching streaming video, playing games or swiping through Instragram that is the issue. We also know parents believe screen media has both positive and negative uses, as we also know that technology brands downplay the negative and enlist teachers to help them promote the positives – even though there is often thin evidence to suggest specific technologies and brands do this, but as usual, hide the benefits in cleverly worded homogenous statements. They also tend to use ex-teachers as reps, and if those reps have a wide social media influence … happy days for brands.

We know that managing screen time also means managing the quality. In addition, having entire family screen time is important, as is a child observing parents reading books over binge watching TV shows. We know that co-playing video games is better for their development than being left to play for eight hours or more in their bedroom. We know, we know, we know.

My point is this. In school, teachers insist kids use computers in just about every classroom. Computer time is not something schools are required to report on, as NESA doesn’t have any policy around this – and doesn’t appear to have thought about yet. A teaching program or unit must include the mandatory outcome numbers and statements, but I don’t see anyone including ‘screen time’ allowances for these activities.

Parents cannot effectively manage or regulate ‘screen time’ at home if teachers are using it all day. Brands know that a teacher is a great envoy for a lifetime of consumer loyalty. That’s why they love ‘delegates’ to visit their offices and hand out show bags.

I am sure I am not the only one who insists on screen-time being measured and planned into children’s units of work and tells parents how much time we (the body of teachers) allow in school. But then we work in holistic projects with four teachers on a session, so we know what each other is doing. In a school where kids more from class to class – who is measuring screen time? Does anyone care? Do teachers have any social responsibility towards children’s screen health?

In a school where kids more from class to class – who is measuring screen time? Does anyone care? Do teachers have any social responsibility towards children’s screen health? And I’m gonna provacatively suggest many teachers are locking into an endless ‘give me your phone’ war with teens in and out of class. Every wonder if it just the media to blame?

Teachers have always been quick to reject video games (addictive) based largely on their existing belief and conceptions of content in them – as they carry on with their online documents and Googling for six hours a day as though these things are better or devoid of effects on children.

Brands make good software. The reps tend to know their stuff – but if you’re a teacher and your students are using 1:1 machines in every classroom day in day out … why? How do you justify not following the recommendations of numerous health organisations.

Brands know exactly what they are doing. They know how to get children to be loyal and how to get parents to buy into their ecosystems. All it takes is a bit of attention and muffin at a conference it seems.

Wake up and stay frosty when it comes to brands and res pushing screen time.

The MinimalEdTech Movement

Blogs are reflective thought pieces – a reaction to the world as I experience it. Maybe no one reads blogs anymore? But I choose to keep using it because this is the only blog like it on the entire ‘internet’. It’s a tiny speck swirling around the immeasurable junk culture of consumerism and relentless media messages.

What’s the minimalist movement got to do with school?

Minimalism isn’t new. In many ways, minimalism (to me) is part of the hipster generation’s obsession with an imagined past, which was both simpler and more meaningful that the one they have – and hate. There are many minimalist sites (and books) which of themselves are part of the media onslaught and super-cool image quest, but essentially, many of the books, blogs and stories are part of the hero’s journey that demands and creates – more media. I also think may of them ‘get that’ and let’s face it, if you also happen to have the media qualities needed to get noticed and promoted then you’re going to be both minimal and have adventures. But you get the point – it’s hard to be minimal in age, where to thrive and promote it, you have to play the game.

I like the minimalist ethos. It leaves room in life for fun and adventure.

Don’t confuse an active, informed decision to be a classroom EdTech minimalist with someone who can’t be bothered to investigate, try, explore and implement educational technology. Sadly, classrooms are full of teachers who have barely progressed beyond using Word Docs and Powerpoint – and from experience as a University teacher – there plenty of pre-teachers who are prosumers and will whine and moan if they are asked to go more than Word essays or, worse, asked to collaborate.

A decade on from the emergence of the read/write web, classrooms have a constellation of options (and prices), but that isn’t making teachers or students happy, confident or better according to the research (as meager as it is). Most research bangs on about ‘potential’ and fails to follow up on ‘implementation’. This is why we have so many prophets on Twitter talking utter EdTech rubbish – as academia has barely shown an interest in investigating their claims. At the heart of the problem are ‘senior’ management who have grown used to a very enjoyable lifestyle of playing with new toys, going to see classrooms with new toys, followed by a conference about more new toys and spend almost no time researching or teaching anything. When they get excited – in rolls a new toy (such as Pokemon Go) and a few weeks later, they get bored or seduced by something else (wait for the Holo Lens to arrive in 3, 2, 1 …) So let’s be honest … the last decade has allowed an unprecedented decadence by the higher-ups, who need a handful of teachers to agree with them and produce ‘heroic’ classrooms … which they believe to be either ‘reality’ or the version of reality the media has convinced them is achievable and useful.

So let’s not put this overclocking of classroom technology at the feet of teachers … this has been sponsored by the ideology of the system, which itself is locked into consumer competition over who has the most toys … with public and ‘alternate’ schools being at the bottom — and yet these are often the places we find the best ‘minimalist’ ideas and practice. They just don’t appear at the endless ‘show off-cons that systems produce’. I’ll leave that there – junk culture starts at the top.

Too much choice, little evidence in the classroom

So we have an abundance of choice, virtually no empirical research to support whether the junk-culture of endless apps and products is good or bad. What we have is a system which still demands exams (individual reading, comprehension, writing and explanation) in order to get a job or into further education – and numerous high-profile principals and gurus banging on about open classrooms, funky furniture and why you should buy into it on an epic sale. I recommend reading Digital Play, as it blows the lid on the BS marketing and commercialisation of children’s play – the very thing so many are getting over excited about.

Minimalism is good economics, it doesn’t mean less meaningful, less functional or less anything … that’s a marketing lie from the 52 seasons of fashion we have in daily life.

I tend to buy old cars with minimal features, simple, yet clever engineering and iconic style that makes me happy just to look at them. From another angle, I’m not a minimalist in the sense that I also own ten cars and to me, less than five means I’m starting to think about buying into the cycle of ‘new appliance’ cars and not the true zen of enjoying driving as a big piece of my leisure time. Each one makes me happy and my view is they cost nothing in the end – they all go up in value, so any money I spend on them washes away as there’s always someone who wants to get into a #drivetastefully machine and I’ve been doing that for twenty years. It’s nice when people ask about a car I’m in – often what is it or they tell me a story about their past, or that one day, they are going to abandon their ‘normal’ car and get a weekender. To me, they could be doing that now, it’s just a choice – driven by the endless consumer media messages about lifestyle. So minimal can be: functional, enjoyable, sustainable, and easy to access – which is what classroom technology should be. Minimal doesn’t mean cheap or crap – most people who decide to try and adopt it – still want quality – and think about what that means (to them) not what the TV and adverts say it means to (everyone).

The problem with EdTech

In 2006 I dived into EdTech as a way to kick down the classroom walls and get past the textbook. Back then, EdTech was small and most people who knew what ‘folksonomy’ and ‘Second Life’ were – knew each other. Google was still just a search engine. It was a minimalist movement: blogs, wikis and simple tools that allowed new functionality. Today, it’s a slogan-driven plurality of software and devices which lack empirical scrutiny and rely almost entirely on junk-culture trends and valorisation by influencers on social media to become ‘the best’. Open source has faded into the distance, with ex-classroom teachers promoting brands on never ending global tours. The problem with EdTech is that it’s as aspirational and happiness driven as the 52-week fashion cycle and upgrade path that dominates life – and doesn’t create happiness for many. Getting back to a minimal backbone of form and function means buying less, worrying less and using less.

Minimalism is …

Pick an old tool, pick one with a long history of success. Next, think of all media as a text type. Create a reading and writing continuum for you students for the time you have them, which is at their level – not the aspirational or entertainment level being falsely presented as digitally smart kids. Don’t confuse a kids ability to play complex video games with anything other than their ability to play complex video games. Stick to what we know makes a difference in their lives – things such as READING using Modern English, in books – it helps them pass exams. Don’t buy into the EdTech bullshit, that relies on the Great American Cowboy narrative to infer you are changing the world and going to overthrow the modernism that underpins ideology, or that politicians actually want a sophisticated reading public. Be a minimalist. Pick a limited number of tools and texts and if you need a new one, throw out an old one. This doesn’t mean you now need to know about ten tools, you still need to be all over what is possible, but kids don’t need excess … they need to learn to use screen-time for productivity, to deepen their understanding … and if all you do this year is get them to use Tiny URL and read single Google Doc with links to texts they can use well, spend your time crafting that one doc. You might not get picked for next week’s TeachMeet – but welcome to the EdTechMinimalists … where your time is now yours again …

 

I know this is a giant post … but right now, I see this as a cornerstone in EdTech’s evolution. Either the brands and online ego-derps win, or scholarship prevails. And to me, only scholarship and minimalist behaviour provide can kids with a healthy sense of being empowered to reject the BS and focus on the game of school. So I’m interested in thoughts on this … I

So I’m interested in thoughts on this … I realize only 10 people read this … but hey …

Reading: not doing it enough is killing us.

During the primary years, schools have proven themselves adept at teaching children to read.  Great news for primary school teachers and children. Reading is the key skill humans use to access new information and in modern hyper-connected, Bluetooth, streaming social society (some call Junk Culture) we never stop reading messages and may even be amusing ourselves to death according to some such as Neil Postman. Whether we believe childhood is better for more things to read or worse, the BIG change for the current generation of parents is that the idea of ‘reading’ we remember at school is under siege from the digital revolution of the last decade.

Reading can change the world. Not Audi or Apple, not the Huffington Post or YouTube. This post is about resetting our thinking about ‘reading’ as an idea. If we don’t accept that ‘reading’ for children – daily – is as important as eating and exercising, then children are not just left to their devices – but being inducted into consumer culture that makes those devices so ‘life essential’ and more essential that a book. So here, I’m going to lay it out – walk past EB Games and into a Bookshop every time you go to the mega-loot-entertainment-hub near you. Grab a book, sit down with your kid and read for 10 mins. Then buy the book.

Why would you do this? Why would you care? Why give up the iPad and iPhone for old technology? – Because reading really is a life skill. According to UNESCO “If all students in low income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, which would be equivalent to a 12% cut in world poverty”. Boom! just by acquiring the skills we give children by year 3. Around the world, most children don’t learn to read at school. If all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths for example. So reading has a massive impact – it is literally a life or death skill.

The Modern English Alphabet spent hundreds of years evolving. In fact, the runic alphabet, which is the earliest form of written English has been in use since the 5th century. Many arguments, reforms, influences and changes later, and the written English language encountered by teenagers is a collection of ‘modern english and digital allographs that have lots of meanings. Added to that, teens create and use glyphs and symbols to represent entire ideas and feelings (emoji). Recent US research found that MOST teenagers don’t Google. For the last ten years or so, teachers have been arguing about whether Google is: cheating, rubbish, useful, time-saver, time-waster and so on. The battle was over what digital technology would be allowed in the classroom, and whether or not ‘the book‘ was better. It was a silly debate, but teachers seemed to enjoy it in staff meetings for years. The reality is that reading is better for children than not reading. We can get into what kind of ‘reading’ material, print vs digital etc., but that missed the point. Reading in the sense of reading for understanding, which also promotes listening to understand, not just reply.

If you want to see the result of not focusing on this: consider what Trunk reads before he Tweets out some more bile and rubbish. Then ask youself, do you think his education minister Sweaty Davros think a ‘reading’ public is a good idea? No, killing reading also kills people.

The EdTech binary debate was was a silly debate in many ways, but teachers seemed to enjoy it in staff meetings for years. Sadly it still goes on in many staffrooms, so don’t wait for your school to solve or #stem (joke) the problem.

The simple, sugar-free and brand-free reality is that reading is better for children than not reading. Australian research shows children have less leisure time than a decade ago and more media choices – so reading for many has vanished as something to do with their leisure time. We can get into what kind of ‘reading’ material, print vs digital etc., but that misses the point. Reading in the sense of reading a great book written in ‘Modern English has shown to improve the lives of children for their entire lives. We can’t say the same of the iPad or the Xbox yet.

If you have read down to here, give yourself a pat on the back!

Reading means reading more than a Tweet or a Facebook post. The media would like you not to do that, but read the headline, then another, then another and spend your whole day clicking. That is what the US research found. Almost all high school students get their news from social media links – other people share. They are not Googling, they just click on ‘stuff’ and the engines that drive the stuff are designed to agree that their world view and lifestyle belief is the best. This internet – is not the one you figured out in the 1990s, todays media bubble for teens has almost no useful comparisons to the days of Yahoo, MSN and beige computers in the family room.

Kids need to read to: interpret explicit information, retrieve direct information, and interpret information by inferring meaning. Reading at school has been eroded by governments for decades after year three. Yes they read text books, but how well they read them is really important. It’s the key driver of success into Senior school – being able to ‘read’ the question and then ‘read’ the text to answer is driven by skills learned a decade earlier. A student might be creative, insightful, hard working and so on, but unless they can ‘read’ well enough to decode the question, they are forced to guess or might take away the wrong meaning. It’s not like exam writers try NOT to do that, they do want to see who can deal with the difficult questions AND content.

Now I’m sure that all students read for 30 minutes a day, and that they know what books are appropriate for their reading level. They probably do this while they wait for their device’s battery to recharge. In case they don’t, then I suggest you find ways to encourage it at home, especially in teens. It might not be as well received as a new Xbox game, but that’s like saying we know children need a healthy diet to thrive and still feeding them sugary junk because they like it.

Schools do teach children to read. The media headlines might try and claim otherwise, but since the 5th century, Modern English based reading – in books, has taught every great inventor, scientist, artist etc., the key skills they need to be a success – and it still delivers results.

Stupid Edu Twitter Graphics #1

The image on the left was on Twitter. A handy visualisation of the BIG question being asked on the stage for the Department of Education’s Principal Conference. I’m sure everyone reminded each other how innovative they are, how hard they work etc.,

But seriously folks, this 2017 and this is the BIG IDEA that they are putting on a forty foot screen – and them someone makes a Twitter graphic about it and hashtags it online. The summit of media notices parents (and teachers) need to know – I’m so glad that the top brass was reminded of the most basic of concepts.

#DerpEd

EdTech Clone Wars

We live in an era of duplicity. There’s little doubt information is repeated, but ethically and professionally – should systems and organisations RIP OFF work that other people who they used to call ‘colleague’ did? I don’t think so. Copyright is automatic in this country – and you’d hope so would ‘being a professional’ or at least having a code.

And yet, some organisations and individuals are actively cloning the work of other people. They do this to save money, make money and to advance their own perceived insight and value to the broader audience. We know that brands make ‘knock offs’ and are keen to clone products they can make money from. We know school and universities are super keen to teach about ethics and plagiarism and yet systems routinely attempt to RIP OFF work of former worker – and current workers – without permission or conscience.

Let say I’m an expert in ‘digital health’ and have been researching and working on it for say a decade. Let’s say I’ve given my time to colleagues and set them on their own journey. That’s called being a professional. Not lets say I discover that my ideas, my work and all that foundational intellectual property is cloned and I start to read about people actively trying to commercialize ‘their version’. Not only is it an unprofessional dick-move, it reduces my interest in bothering with the current culture of scraping Twitter and blogs for ideas which can be cloned. But they can’t be cloned – there are insights, data and layers of knowledge and experience that can’t be repeated (even it you scraped their slidedeck of Slideshare). Being a professional means not stealing IP and work from others.

So don’t be a dick. If someone have worked (for you and others) on a topic, is local, is available and justifiably get’s pissed when they see a clone of their work, their workshop and thier ideas being put on by someone else – with added Doc Martin’s and pity anecdotes – it isn’t okay – it’s a dick move and you and your office full of Twitter sucking vampires need to take a look at yourselves. Add something to the pool of knowledge and keep your hands off things that you didn’t create – just go buy into some Sloganware – they love it when you copy their media messages and crafted bylines.

Be professional, be a scholar and have some respect.

Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.

How do I get to speak at a conference?

These days there are three conference types. The first requires some call for papers or posters though an abstract. It should meet the theme of the conference and should provide peers in your field with new insights or updates to what is known about the topic. These are peer reviewed and common practice in higher education, however many membership-based associations use the same approach. The focus in on empirical evidence, proven methods of research and serves to inspire and update colleagues.

The second is the commercial show. The largest in Australia is Edutech, so I’ll use this a particularly predatory example. This is a company created and dedicated to making money from conference organizations. Approaches are made on the basis that their work has sufficient popular interest to fill a room. I am only one of many who declined their offers. The process in amusing as some marketing office assistant attempts to conduct a phone ‘interview’ – and apart from going to a school at some point as a student, seem to have no idea what scholarship means, nor do they care. At these events, the ‘keynote’ will be paid anything from $5,000 to $100,000. The most famous – the ones with the most popular pithy quotes such as “schools kill rock music” are fairly shameless in repeating the same mantra, the same true-isms and generally see conferences as easy money, bringing along they wives or husbands for a nice little holiday. Further down the ranks, these event organizers stop paying anyone past a handful of elites. Most of the speakers are there to fill rooms and present this an  ‘opportunity’ as though your insights and work is worthless or at best, it’s okay to treat you like an intern who will do almost anything to move up the food chain. Don’t be fooled. There is no food chain, the elites guard their income fiercely and not about to share. Often the elites have not actually been in a classroom for years and simply peddle a story – one the audience want’s to believe. It’s a predictable formula that has been remarkably successful.

The third are the in-system events. These do have some merit in that they are sharing information between actual teachers, but these too, tend to import external-elites, who drop amusing stories for a fee (leaving ASAP) while the actual teachers who know the context backward, get side rooms, and often have to pay to attend the event to boot. These are usually invitation based, and run on who you know – and who did people ‘like’ last time. Another lottery – but at least you’re spending time with people in your system – so most people go for the networking and suffer the boring powerpoint parts by some dude who’s never going to care about you.

Last, we have the ‘unconference’, ‘bar-camp’ and ‘teachmeet’ – these are largely the same thing. Low budget, but no less of an oligarchy. They are promoted via people who have set themselves up as ‘leaders’ or ‘founders’ using Twitter hashtags. They mimic the ‘grand story’ of the big conferences, and there some argument that they are slightly miffed at never being asked, so it’s a little counter-culture. The good part is that bar-camp set up a framework in which most people get a lottery chance at speaking. BUT there are ‘special guests’ who don’t have to use the speaking lottery. Again, good for networking – but the larger ones are highly orchestrated around the ‘in crowd’ and again tend to encourage the ‘intern-apprentice’ culture in which dissenting voices who dare to ask curly questions such as ‘do you have have evidence’ or ‘what is the method being used’ are less welcome. These events seem to encourage buzzwords and bandwagons, as the rely on pop-culture as a promotional vehicle. Bar-camp was about ideas, but we have moved a long way from that these days. In my decade or more experience, I’d suggest the smaller events are far more useful and authentic than the BIG ones – because they often sing to the choir and ego-boost ‘innovative principals and leaders’ etc., because social media based groups are not anywhere near as open and libertarian as they’d like us to believe.

Career booting though Twitter and unconferences works if you are prepared to promote yourself and to align yourself with those who share the ambition. Being popular matters if you want to be part of the in-crowd. This is no different to how YouTubers share audiences to ensure outsiders are locked out. It’s not as though there’s a clear goal here – but clearly, some people are working 24/7.  It works too, you can go from classroom teacher to DP or better in a short(er) time – simply by becoming popular and never do anything more than a song and dance. A word of caution: there is a song list. Don’t talk about how unaccountable teachers are for the time they force kids to sit in front of laptops – but just say how X Software on laptops is awesome.they lack evidence and rely on popularism and in-group bias to be correct. They are also often aligned with personalities who are not just brand loyal, but salesmen for the brand.

Where ‘speakers’ lack evidence and must rely on popularism and in-group bias to be noticed. Founding a hashtag and asking simplistic questions is actually seen as ‘good communication’ when in fact its Haw Haw.  These people/things are also often aligned and infused with personalities who are not just brand loyal, but salesmen for the brand.

Consumer theory has established that brands have exploited children in recent years – and who better to be the ‘face of brand X’ than a teacher who can insist and command children use it. No wonder technology brands have “edu” high on the list of promotional activities. Brands don’t find peer-review and scholarship appealing ways to promote their products … and social media based events and commercial ‘

Brands avoid peer-review and find membership driven events are ‘best sponsored’ as to avoid scrutiny,  whereas and social media based events and commercial conferences are essential to their bottom line.

So how to you speak at a conference? – get in competition with everyone else, be ruthless, find a niche, don’t bother offering any evidence – in fact do the opposite of what education is supposed to do – to arm children with defences against exploitation and to ensure teachers are not in competition, but work to improve what we know works in a world where marketing and media actively work to mask it.

I know >>> I don’t call you, you call me.

76 Trombones in the reform parade

Reform is all about the future. Humans are notoriously optimistic about the future and every song and dance man can belt out a tune about leadership, motivation and how to turn dreams into reality. You only have to spend a few minutes on Twitter to see how the 21st Century SocMedia Leaders use ‘the future’ as a pervasive attention-grabber.

Sadly, and for all their seventy-six trombones, the future is notoriously unpredictable which also makes it perfect for doing exactly nothing. If we’re talking about actual reform, where we’re crafting and implementing a new and mostly unique model of learning – even the best intentions will run into the ongoing culture which is strapped to the neo-liberal pole of ‘do more with less’. The job of reform is thankless and at times borders on dangerous. Most people don’t want to change. Our brains are wired up to notice these things, and it tells us that change is hard and dangerous – so don’t get involved.

Saying you’re on board or wanting it doesn’t make it true. Reform is very difficult because our monkey brains spend all their time avoiding danger and risk, and want to do things that have proven safe and easy in the past. There is an end destination – the one that we all want to get to. People seem to think that at some point, the motivation to do it will come – and bingo, next stop Reform City. I don’t believe this. I used to, but time and again, people love the parade, but don’t stick around for the actual work. Even worse, the online culture has convinced people that we can reform classrooms using the ‘think system’ and not put in any [more] effort.

So even if you have this amazing thing that can transform learning and teaching — it’s going to get bogged down in the mud. People are going to wait you out and see if it goes away or worse, watch it crash and burn. I admire people who set out to reform schools – and entire systems – because it’s HARD WORK and I have little time for keynotes and Twitter experts who to me are song and dance men at the end of the day. If you’re in the reforming business – you know what I mean … seventy six trombones in the big parade!