28 comments on “How digital are you? And why?!

  1. Jeremy,

    Happy birthday!

    In answer to your questions…

    1) You don’t – but if you can survive on liquid protein sachets, why do you need steak?
    2) I might – it can raise people out of poverty, can education and technology…
    3) No, it’s relevant everywhere (‘developed world’ conversations are misguided here)
    4) Yes, and yes (but only creatively and not too heavy handed on their turf)
    5) Yes, it really should…

    I could go on (as you well know), but I won’t. There’s plenty of evidence for my point 2) (above) and also plenty of evidence that our rubbish ‘western’ views of ‘developed’ countries, technology-wise is completely wide of the mark.

    Have a grand day,

    Gavin

    • Thanks for the birthday wishes. Where on earth did all those years go?!

      I think we probably agree on most of this, with one possible exception. Yes, I think kids expect their teachers to be technologically competent. But I am not so sure that they want teachers to be as it were ‘down at their level’. In other words do they really want their ‘from a different world’ teachers to be in their world? Maybe they want them to use a different kind of technology? Not sure.

      Yes, you are right about ‘developing countries’ – though on a show of hands for about 7-800 teachers (in all) I reckon less than half had computers and broadband at home, and only about 10% had computers at home, about 2% had IWBs in classrooms etc. But I think (well I hope) they had quite a good time….

      Jeremy

  2. Hi Jeremy.

    OLPC is a project that I’ve been following for a few years now [http://blog.laptop.org/] and curiously it came up in class last Friday. It seems to be one of those things that really polarise people.

    What did the audience in Bulgaria make of it? And you yourself?

    • Hello Alan,

      thanks for your comment – I had a nice time over at your blog.

      I am, as you can imagine, a huge fan of the ‘inclusive’ thinking behind One-laptop-per-cgild. The Uruguay film is very moving (and self-satisfied in a way), but it does beg some questions such as:

      1 what do teachers and students actually DO with their computers?

      2 How happy are teachers with their students’ computers? Have they had appropriate and sufficient training?

      I think the audience in Bulgaria enjoyed having a look at some IT ideas. Some were enthusiastic. Some….er….not sure!

      Jeremy

      • Hi Jeremy and Alan. I’m a teacher from Uruguay and although what it is shown in this video is true, there are some other aspects which are not being included. This topic has been quite controversial in our country. We have studied “plan ceibal” and its implementation. To start with, I would say that in most of the cases, the computers were delivered in December, period in which the lessons finish in Uruguay. That means that the children had two months to investigate and use their computers and when they returned to school to start the lessons, they knew much more of their computers than teachers did.During that summer,no teaching training was implemented, so teachers did not know how to use them and how to work with them. Many people argued that students should leave their computers at school and working with them only when they are in the institutions, unless the teacher sends them homework. The reason for this is because at home, adults use their childrens’ computers to enter internet, chat, social networks and play games. Soon, the computers were having many problems to be used and the people in charge to repair them, were overworked with many broken computers. Another reason is that students spend hours playing games and in no educational webpages which have made them lose their creativity, time to socialize with their fellows, among others. I can not say ceibal is totally negative but I think it’s been wrongly implemented and this opinion is shared by many people in here, specially, the ones who are working in education. (Sorry if I made mistakes in my English and if I’ve not been clear enough)

  3. Jeremy,

    Jeremy Harmer :
    In other words do they really want their ‘from a different world’ teachers to be in their world? Maybe they want them to use a different kind of technology? Not sure.

    Quite! That’s what I meant about not being too heavy handed. That’s why I have reservations about some use of technologies, in the same way that I have some reservations about some kinds of music, activities, etc. There’s nowt as embarrassing as your dad liking the same music as you…

    Jeremy Harmer :
    Yes, you are right about ‘developing countries’ – though on a show of hands for about 7-800 teachers (in all) I reckon less than half had computers and broadband at home, and only about 10% had computers at home, about 2% had IWBs in classrooms etc. But I think (well I hope) they had quite a good time….

    I’m not surprised about that at all – but how many of them had a mobile phone that could record video and audio, take digital images, notes, and run apps? I think your percentages would be a lot higher. Personally I think (groan!) that IWBs are a waste of time – smartphones and decent net access at work a much better idea.

    Gavin

  4. Happy birthday, Jeremy. You must be nearly as old as me.😉

    I think this might be relevant: there was an interview El País today with Richard Gerver, author of ‘Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today’. I’ll cut and paste a bit and then see how Google Translate deals with it:

    La transformación de la educación no requiere de una gran inversión. Estamos ante una transformación humana. El cambio está en conseguir atraer a los jóvenes a través de la emoción y la creatividad, usando la imaginación. Eso no cuesta dinero. Cuando se habla de nuevas tecnologías siempre nos quedamos en llenar las clases de ordenadores, pero es absurdo. En sus casas ya tienen aparatos más avanzados. La inversión debe estar en la forma en que se usa la tecnología, sobre todo en el software y en material online, que es mucho más barato que comprar aparatos que se quedan obsoletos.

    The transformation of education does not require a big investment. We are facing a human transformation. Change is in attracting young people get through the emotion and creativity, using the imagination. That does not cost money. When it comes to new technologies we are always in complete computer classes, but it is absurd. In their homes and have more advanced equipment. The investment must be in the way technology is used, especially in the software and online material, which is much cheaper than buying equipment that become obsolete.

    Well, the key point got lost in translation: basically he says that it’s a waste of money filling classrooms with computers – kids have much more sophisticated technology at home.

    But of course he’s speaking from a somewhat privielged context.

    The full interview is here, if you read Spanish or trust Google Translate:

    http://tecnologia.elpais.com/tecnologia/2012/04/20/actualidad/1334922119_543382.html

    • Scott,

      thanks for birthday wishes, you younger (always) man! I’ve reached the age where a newspaper headline would say something like ‘Plucky pensioner foils robber’! How humiliating!

      Thank you for the Richard Gerver interview. It is full of good sense and has conclusions it would be difficult to disagree with – in particular (even though Gerver doesn’t say this explicitly) that as Gavin says (elsewhere in these comments) and as I was saying last week, IWBs may have already had their day. That accessing the kind of technology that kids use – no, let’s restate that – that all of US use is the way forward. But how? Ah, well that’s the question.

      I still think, however, that teachers need to carve out different territory from their younger (especially) students. There is value in gaming and game-like activity it seems to me, and Nicky Hockly makes a good case for using things like Facebook with students. Nevertheless, education and outside-education-teenage life are not always the same. Teachers have to bring something special to the education experience. In our rapidly-developing technical world what that is/should be becomes a more and more urgent question.

      However, in secondary schools in Plovdiv and Sofia last week I saw the following: a class with no technology apart from the white board (no ‘interactivity’), a teacher using a computer and projector to project a chart about oxidisation, a teacher using an IWB & course book software to set up a homework task, and students using pen and paper (and then a white board) to discuss the merits and otherwise of genetically modified crops. The presence or lack of technology didn’t actually make any difference as far as I could see! But the kids were great.

      Jeremy

  5. Questioner: Do you know Google?
    William: What animal is google?

    You may have heard the above anecdote as related by WIlliam Kamkwamba (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-october-7-2009/william-kamkwamba, near end of this interview). William built a windmill from pictures in library books when he was 14 and not attending school.

    So if taken at face value then clearly William could have saved a lot of time. At the same time how would his understanding of how to create a windmill from his envronment using Google differed? Would it have been as effective? Would the time saved have made his design more efficient?

    The OLPC project was evaluated recently (http://www.iadb.org/en/research-and-data/publication-details,3169.html?pub_id=IDB-WP-304) via standard testing and found wanting. Does that mean it failed? Certainly a big factor was lack of teacher support and training.
    How about Mitra and his computers in the wall project?(http://fora.tv/2007/09/27/Minimally_Invasive_Education_through_Social_Play). Where the results support the notion that kids just need access to technology and their curiousity would do the rest.

    There are a lot of projects trying to leverage the wide popularity of cheap phones in developing countries but as you mentioned the telcom infrastructure needs to be reliable and widespread.

    Sorry I don’t think I actually answered your questions directly , it is difficult to answer such quesitons well in the abstract without reference to examples of use
    Thanks for post loads to think about!.

    ta
    Mura

    • Hello Mura,

      thanks very much for your thoughts – and the links. I am familiar with the Peru study from the Inter-American bank (though I have not read it in detail). It makes me think…for example that at one level the Plan Ceibal in Uruguay always makes me very emotional (as the video I posted here is meant to make me!). The idea that we can decrease one kind of grievous inequality (the real digital divide) is inspiring. But eh real questions have to be the ones I (and countless others) pose, namely right now the kids have got these computers, so what?

      As for the ‘Hole in the wall’ project (Sugata Mitra), it does tell you that kids can learn to ‘build their windmills’ on their own. That much I think we knew, really. But whether this is what they SHOULD be doing in an educational context? I don’t know. And do all students benefit equally from this kind of ‘hands-on’ discovery? There is a reason why teachers have taught for thousands of years. We may not be experts in our subjects, but we do have a role in shaping student thought and activity, don’t we? For if not, we’d better all go home!

      Jeremy

  6. Scott Thornbury :
    Well, the key point got lost in translation: basically he says that it’s a waste of money filling classrooms with computers – kids have much more sophisticated technology at home.

    I couldn’t agree more – give them wifi and let them use what they have. Which I think shows exactly why BYOD makes sense, and why insisting on asking how many IWBs a school has is more a 2005 question than one from today…

    Gavin

  7. Happy b-day Jeremy!
    Interesting topic.I live in Argentina where OLPC has been implemented (“Conectar Igualdad”). High schools students of public schools are provided with netbooks with the objective of bridging the digital gap. It is important to mention a big proportion of the public schools in my country are in low income areas where running water and electricity are still considered a luxury so teacher training cannot only focus on educational uses of technology but on how to plan for contingency as well.However, official teacher training focuses mainly on the use of software rather than looking into how and why technology can be integrated into classes to develop competences and digital literacy, let alone on how to apply ideas to our local reality. In consequence, many teachers whose students have received netbooks aren´t using them in their classes. In developing countries such as mine, many students
    don´t have better technology at home but I do agree is far more important to invest in how technology is used first.

    • Hello & thanks for yesterday birthday wishes!

      You have identified two HUGE problems that technology poses: first is it what governments should spend money on when there are problems with things as basic as electricity? It’s like the difference between spending money on malaria vaccine vs just making sure all kids have mosquito nets!

      And then the issue of training…what IS the function of training here. Certainly without it, many (most?) teachers won’t use the new netbooks at all – although maybe the kids will (an ongoing thread, that, in this discussion). Just introducing them to a piece of software?

      The most convincing IT training I have seen/had is where either someone enables me to do something ~I couldn’t do before but can now (thanks to training) do better, or where examples of student work make the IT case so strongly.

      Yes, digital literacy is a big topic and needs to be taught. But how would you/anyone approach the job of helping teachers to help students to use their netbooks to learn I wonder.

      Jeremy

      • Hi Jeremy
        Thank you for answering my comment and for following me back on twitter🙂
        First I believe it is important to clarify that even if students in Argentina are getting netbooks, teachers shouldn´t feel forced to include them in every lesson plan without focusing on what pedagogical aspects are behind it. I believe using netbooks in class should enable teachers and students do new things such as connecting with the outside world, hypertext reading and using multimedia, which were impossible in the traditional classroom. Therefore if we want to help teachers it is important to address topics such as the use of technology (which everyone can be trained on) but much more importantly, help teachers develop critical thinking skills that enable them to decide when and why they should include technology in their lesson planning..
        Last year I helped design a series of online workshops for Argentinean teachers on how to use technology for teaching English as a second language. To our surprise, teachers who participated enjoyed experiencing this kind of training where they had to try out different online tools, analyse why they would include them in their lessons and how to plan for contingency . The workshops also intended to create networks among teachers from different parts of Argentina to share ideas and experiences.

        Daniela

  8. dudeneyge :

    Jeremy,

    Jeremy Harmer :
    In other words do they really want their ‘from a different world’ teachers to be in their world? Maybe they want them to use a different kind of technology? Not sure.

    Quite! That’s what I meant about not being too heavy handed. That’s why I have reservations about some use of technologies, in the same way that I have some reservations about some kinds of music, activities, etc. There’s nowt as embarrassing as your dad liking the same music as you…

    Jeremy Harmer :
    Yes, you are right about ‘developing countries’ – though on a show of hands for about 7-800 teachers (in all) I reckon less than half had computers and broadband at home, and only about 10% had computers at home, about 2% had IWBs in classrooms etc. But I think (well I hope) they had quite a good time….

    I’m not surprised about that at all – but how many of them had a mobile phone that could record video and audio, take digital images, notes, and run apps? I think your percentages would be a lot higher. Personally I think (groan!) that IWBs are a waste of time – smartphones and decent net access at work a much better idea.

    Gavin

    I completely agree (and was saying this last week) that the IWB may be the ‘fax machine’ of IT. The future has to be more mobile (though teachers DO need some kind of central attention-getting technology). Tablets etc. However, in Bulgaria the number of people who said they had smartphones of any description (as opposed to mobile/cell phones) was very very low.
    Interesting to see how things go/are going!
    Jeremy

  9. Hi Jeremy
    I attended your talk in Sofia last week, and I want to say that it was highly inspiring! It re-awakened my interest in using technology in the classroom. I got really into all things techie a few years back (including doing a course with Gavin and Nicky at ConsultantsE), but then I sort of slipped back into not using technology quite as much (back to the stick in the desert!).
    However, as I said above, attending your talk got me thinking again about harnessing the power of technology as one of the tools available to teachers. I might even (finally) get started on the MA I’ve been putting off for too many years…I’m interested in doing an MSc in Educational Technology.

    I think that, despite the relatively low availablity of IT for state-school teachers in Bulgaria, the teachers who attended your talk in Sofia were also inspired and will most probably do what they can with what they have, to try to enhance their students’ learning experience. I’m working in a private school here (www.excellence.bg) and we do have more technology available, such as Smart Boards (maybe I was 1 of the 2 hands in the air for this question). However, I have noticed that some of my colleagues have allowed the Samrt board to take over their teaching somewhat. As senior teacher here, I think I may have to take some of them back to the desert with a bundle of sticks!

    Great website you have here! I’ll be checking in from time to time to keep up with your interesting ideas. In the meantime, thanks again for the inspiring talk here in Sofia…I also had a birthday recently (the big 50), but I’m already feeling YOUNGER!!

    Best wishes, Richard Hargreaves

    • Hello Richard

      thank you very much indeed for your kind comments. I am glad you are feeling younger!!!

      I absolutely agree that overuse of great big technology beasts like IWBs is unattractive. IWBs CAN get in the way of normal classroom interaction, I am sure. That was the point I tried to make about IT being, sometimes, a distraction. Stick & desert might be a good corrective, in fact.

      And yet….technology is here, so why wouldn’t we use it? It’s such good fun. But as always, it’s not the what, it’s the how!

      Thanks again. I am so glad you came along.

      Jeremy

  10. Hi Jeremy! Just a quick comment on #2. The government here in Argentina did handle netbooks for every kid at school last year. Whether that’s a mark of progress or not is debatable (a huge number of people read this as pure demagogy). Now we have a new problem: every kid with their netbook and very very few teachers qualified to actually integrate technology in the classroom. I don’t think teachers need to be at the students’ level as far as technology is concerned but yes, I think we all should be technology competent to some degree!
    Best wishes from Argentina!
    Barbara

    • Hello Barbara,

      thanks so much for coming along.

      That’s it, that’s it! I mean that IT equipment with no real teacher training is somewhat pointless. I agree completely that we do not need to be ‘as good’ as some of the kids we teach, though i think familiarity with IT should be a ‘given’ for most teachers.

      But, unless they have time, most teachers aren’t going to get there on their own and they need help. The good thing is that there are so many people to help them. It just needs to be organised.

      Or am I being naively optimistic?!

      Jewremy

  11. Creative Technology (@createch1) :

    Hi Jeremy
    Thank you for answering my comment and for following me back on twitter :)
    First I believe it is important to clarify that even if students in Argentina are getting netbooks, teachers shouldn´t feel forced to include them in every lesson plan without focusing on what pedagogical aspects are behind it. I believe using netbooks in class should enable teachers and students do new things such as connecting with the outside world, hypertext reading and using multimedia, which were impossible in the traditional classroom. Therefore if we want to help teachers it is important to address topics such as the use of technology (which everyone can be trained on) but much more importantly, help teachers develop critical thinking skills that enable them to decide when and why they should include technology in their lesson planning..
    Last year I helped design a series of online workshops for Argentinean teachers on how to use technology for teaching English as a second language. To our surprise, teachers who participated enjoyed experiencing this kind of training where they had to try out different online tools, analyse why they would include them in their lessons and how to plan for contingency . The workshops also intended to create networks among teachers from different parts of Argentina to share ideas and experiences.

    Daniela

    Hi Daniela,

    you are so right. You don’t HAVE to use netbooks all the time just because students have got them. They are there to help teaching and learning if and when appropriate, nothing else.

    I love your account of getting teachers involved. All they need is a sympathetic person such as yourself (Diana Eastment was another) to give them some hands-on experience. But giving them that appropriately is a skill I think, one which you obviously possess!

    It’s exciting, that’s for sure.

    Jeremy

  12. I was there at your presentation in Plovdiv, and said much the same sort of things (minus computers) about 21 years previously at an IATEFL conference in Sofia; although, to be fair, your talk was a lot slicker and better put together. Unfortunately, while most state schools here have all sorts of fancy equipment (interactive whiteboards and so forth) very few teachers use them because this involves time and effort; as teachers in the state sector are abominably badly paid here, most of them are moonlighting just to feed their kids, so they have very little spare time and even less motivation to do anything beyond what they have been doing for the last 20-odd years. The other problem is that 90% of EFL teachers here are home-trained and are absolutely 100% convinced that the Grammar-Translation method is “where it is at”. I have been fighting for years to get teachers to stop using L1 in the classroom, to no avail. Until that happens most technological resources will not be adopted as they are largely aimed at teachers using a largely Communicative Competence based methodology.

    • Hi John,

      thank you so much for coming along and commenting here. I am glad you enjoyed the presentation. I LIKE the slick comment!

      I won’t make any comment about teachers in Bulgaria because it would be inappropriate for me to do so (and anyway I do not have enough knowledge to do so). But I can say that the big question is always how to persuade teachers that using something new is worth it. There has to be more in it for them – whether that means fun, excitement, success or whatever.

      I am feeling more friendly about grammar translation than I used to (I’m not suggesting going back to it!). But the question is (again): what do we have to offer that will make teachers WANT to use IT stuff? It’s up to us, probably, to get that right!

      Jeremy

      • Having seen the Communicative Competence method carried to its reductio ad absurdam (i.e. teachers learning how to understand their pupils’/students’ garbled English), I can honestly say that over the last 20 odd years since then, I have opted for some sort of halfway house between Grammar-Translation (without the translation) and Communicative Competence. There is a place for formal explanation of grammar, and even, on occasion, a place for a class showing parallels between L1 grammar and English grammar. I use textbooks that are 90% Communicative Competence focussed, and the “dreaded” Raymond Murphy as a foil. I, also, find that while textbooks are all jolly well and good as roadmaps, they are never enough in and of themselves.

  13. jeremy what do you think about , technology is the most important thing to teach english nowadays?
    in other words , technology is the solution , we are talking abouts ,laptops , and o all sort of devices into the classroom ,

  14. Question 5 was kept in my mind and I think there is a very interesting point in the question you’ve made.
    I have the feeling that in the short run, at least in my country, teachers with a technological background would be better considered for teaching. In my opinion this idea could relegate real or meaningful learning to a peripheral level, resulting digital learning the most appreciated feature in the teaching-learning process. For example, I imagine a teacher explaining the technical steps to make a good presentation of a certain task and not having the necessary time to concentrate on ideas. In this way, ideas or content could not be the centre of teacher intervention, and this worries me.
    I know technology is a really good and attractive tool to use in teaching but at the same time I wonder if we are teaching how to adapt and better accommodate to the digital world.
    I’d like to leave a question:

    1 What are we leaving behind as we learn and teach new technologies? If so, would this affect our creative and professional development in the long run?

  15. In the private language school where I teach (French, don’t worry) in Montréal, we still use chalk and blackboards, which doesn’t mean we are technophobic, but it works perfectly well for small adult class. However, I have recently been very interested in the use of new technologies in education and I wanted to share a couple of interesting video-conferences, just because it made me reflect a lot on the possibilities we have now. Don’t worry, it is not self promotion, those are not mine. I can’t say I completely agree, but there is definitively something there that deserves to be thought

    Here you go, I hope you will them interesting :

    maybe more provocative in a way

  16. Pingback: Jeremy Harmer

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