Category: The Wrong Journey

What’s wrong with evidence-informed technology integration?

What’s wrong with evidence-informed technology integration?

Technology integration and technology use in education has been, and always will be, under immense scrutiny when it comes to determining its impact on student outcomes. With so many schools filled with a wide variety of devices and software, I can’t help but wonder how many of those school leaders really considered the impact that their new-found technology would have on their learners.

As a learning technologist and an advocate for technology use, I love technology. I love the affordances of technology and the tools they provide to help enhance my teaching. I’ve spent the past six years or so championing the use of mobile devices and 1:1 programmes, talking about engagement and creativity. While there is value to this excitement, the spotlight is shining brightly on evidence-informed practice and quite frankly ‘engagement and creativity’ just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Many would argue that it never really was.

So what’s wrong with evidence-informed technology integration? Well, absolutely nothing of course. As I reread Louise Stoll’s recent piece in the Chartered College of Teaching magazine ‘Impact’, I’m reminded of the many educators who, like myself, face a number of challenges when embracing research. As my ‘wrong journey’ continues, I now hold up a mirror to my own beliefs and approach to practice.

Exploring evidence-informed practice through various lenses

Considering our own biases

How many of us just believe that certain classroom ideologies work? How many of us are open to changing, reflecting on or even reconsidering our fundamental beliefs when it comes to pedagogy? I’m not just talking about changing some strategies to improve learning or outcomes, I mean changing our core beliefs? David Didau tells us ‘not to trust our gut’, that we have to consider that just because we ‘see’ learning happening, it doesn’t mean it actually is,

“In order to escape some of the grossest errors of judgement, we must mistrust the illusion of certainly and seek to avoid entirely predictable cognitive bias”

— David Didau

Here lies one of our greatest challenges. After all the investment, time and financial, are we prepared to except that our approach to technology integration is wrong? What might be the fallout of our discoveries? Am I, a self-proclaimed advocate for technology, prepared to address my own discrepancies without bias?

The needle in the haystack

Making those discoveries is also a challenge in itself. Quality research in technology education and integration is difficult to find. I recall the painstaking efforts to find quality data for my Masters degree dissertation. Ultimately, the best research focused on learning itself, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise – technology was always the footnote. But that can no longer be the case. Educators need access to quality research and data on how technology impacts on learning. Schools need access to quality data to ensure that they are investing wisely, not just in physical hardware but in the professional development of those educators that are required to use it.

Building a network

Sharing my experience of coding in the curriculum, Denmark 2017

I’ve recently returned from Denmark where I was fortunate enough to work alongside Apple and my peers from schools across Europe. I discovered that we all experience the same challenges. We’re all accountable to our schools to ensure that the investment in technology integration pays off. More importantly we’re accountable to our students and their progress. Stoll explains that another challenge when moving towards evidence-informed practice is that we often try to do this in isolation.

Being part of a community that aims to inspire learners and move them forward through technology use is incredibly powerful. Since being accepted to join the Apple Distinguished Educator community in 2013 I have had the opportunity to share and learn about technology integration with incredible educators from across the world. It has been a delight to discuss and share our experience of best practice in the classroom via a range of devices and platforms.

What’s missing?

Despite all of our access to technology, best practice about technology integration is still in its infancy. So what’s missing?

  • Access to quality research in technology integration is in high demand
  • Schools need a clear strategy for integrating technology, as well as evaluating its impact
  • Specialist educators and leaders responsible for technology integration need access to a community of learners with similar expertise and interest in research enquiry and knowledge curation

This list just scratches the surface as to how we can make better use of research in this field. This highlights the need for current experts and specialists to actually undertake the research – easier said than done! I’m sure the debate and concerns surrounding evidence-informed practice in technology integration is far from over. I for one am excited to be part of that discussion.

David Didau, ‘What if everything you knew about education was wrong?’, pages 7-107

Louise Stoll, ‘Five challenges in moving forward in evidence-informed practice’, ‘Impact’, The Chartered College of Teaching, pages 11-13

The Wrong Perception: What can the Teaching Profession learn from United Airlines and Pepsi?

The Wrong Perception: What can the Teaching Profession learn from United Airlines and Pepsi?

It’s been a while since I started ‘The Wrong Journey’ and a long time since my last post. I’ve enjoyed lots of staffroom discussions on the latest ‘wrongs and rights’ of education. The list is increasingly growing and more theories appear to be ‘debunked’. It’s becoming harder for the teaching profession, in my opinion, to make decisions based on evidence and facts when there are so many options to consider.

Which direction?

Perhaps this has been an issue in education, or UK education, for many years. This year I reach the ten-year mark as an educator, a ‘milestone’ perhaps to really reflect on my practice and where I want to go next. However, I’m concerned that there is no guiding light or group in education that offers reassurances on the rights or wrongs of solid, quality education and best practice.

A PR problem?

I see colleagues and peers, online and offline, being led by educational consultants and Twitter ‘Edu-celebs’ on best practice. This worries me. The message of what is right and wrong in education today is becoming harder for the ‘average’ teacher to ascertain, decipher and put to good use. Lines are blurred, as are personal agendas. Can things be so black and white, right and wrong? This is not to say that these voices shouldn’t be valued but they are very loud. With a perceived lack of clarity and confidence from within the profession, how can non-educators have trust and faith in what we do or say? Does the teaching profession have a PR problem?

The wrong perception

United Airlines and Pepsi have recently shown us how powerful public perception, and media, has on the success of a brand. The awful treatment of the passenger on United Flight 3411, and the subsequent follow-up from the CEO resonated with a lot of people. Although this is an extreme and unusual case, it ultimately changed the face of the company. People were outraged, not just by the incident, but by the way it was handled by United’s leader.

Pepsi had their own issues too when Kendall Jenner, famous for being famous, showed the world that everything can be fixed with a can of soda. This perhaps didn’t spark the same outrage as United but the company and its image was mocked as a result.

Heineken, however, shows them how it’s done with the excellent ‘World’s Apart’ advert.

So where does the teaching profession come in?

Some (more) questions:

What if we considered the teaching profession as a brand? (*ducks for cover*)

What if we started to re-consider what the profession means to us as peers and colleagues?

What if we re-evaluated and re-considered how the public perceives the profession?

Teacher recruitment, retention and workload have made headlines in the UK over the past few months. As a result, a stream of stock images have populated many news articles, presenting a very specific image of our profession.

The issue of workload and mental health of educators is real and not to be undermined. The challenges, details, concerns, solutions etc. are so much broader and more complex than I can articulate in this short blog post but it is doesn’t paint the full picture of the profession.

Redefining the profession

There are success stories and achievements to be shared. There are educators standing up to the tired stereotype of the 9-3:30 teacher with 14-weeks of holiday. Where are the news articles and stock images representing them? Are we always the victim? How do we change our ‘brand’ or our image as professionals so that our naysayer’s trust and believe in what we do, ensuring some support when times get tough?

It’s here that we come full circle. How can we define and promote our ‘brand’, our profession, until we truly know what it’s supposed to look like – what we really want it to look like. We can’t (re)define our profession until we are confident in understanding what’s wrong or right, what our purpose is, or more importantly, being able to successfully identify this ourselves.

Education communities

I recently joined the Chartered Colleague of Teaching to help me make sense of some of these questions and thoughts. I’m fortunate enough to hear Dame Alison Peacock’s keynote speech at my school’s conference on 1st May (more via #BSNConf17, @BSNLearn and @BSNIntLA). I’m sure I’ll reflect more on this later.

Without sounding like an advert, which this post is not, the option to join a group willing to address similar questions is very empowering. For me, as an ‘ordinary’ educator, it’s important to also have access to up-to-date research. I want to make up my own inferences and decisions in building this image – rather than being told.

While image and brand is important – so is depth. Above all, our profession should be one that is credible and inspiring.

Something that United Airlines and Pepsi could learn from too.

The joy of this blog is that I get to ask these questions. I may not necessary have the answers to them (yet anyway)! It’s a great get-out clause! There may be a slight scent of idealism in my posts but I hope I get to engage with others. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

The Wrong Journey

Before I start please have a read at the ‘About Me’ section. It gives you a little backstory to the blog and where (I hope) it intends to go.

I’ve had an incredible few weeks in my school. I’m beginning to have a greater appreciation of the people I work with. I work with some talented and wonderful people, not just students, but staff. Despite heading 100kph to half-term, my colleagues and I still have some capacity to engage in good old debates. All in good nature of course! When we’re done analysing DT’s latest cringe-worthy faux pas, the staffroom has been debating all of the current ‘wrongs’ in education.

A random topic maybe, but hear me out. Recently a number of colleagues across the organisation visited ResearchEd in Amsterdam. The event was led by Tom Bennett and his ‘Edumyths’ brigade (an affectionate phrase I assure you), our team were hit with some shocking revelations. Apparently we’re teaching everything wrong! This is obviously a simplistic summary but in turn, this was the reoccurring theme of the event.

She blinded me with science

Apparently educators have become blinded by educational ‘movements’ that are not based on fact or research. We base our decisions and pedagogies on emotions and ‘gut feelings’, despite those feelings masking truth and realism. As educators we have apparently lost sight of challenging these processes. We have lost the ability to critique the practice that dictates our daily lives. I don’t really want to delve too deep into the content delivered during ResearchEd Amsterdam, but if you’re interested you can read more here.

Ultimately, something resonated with me that day. The thought that some of the pedagogies and methods I have used over the past 10 years may have be based on pure crap. Simple as that. A frightening thought you may agree. While I may not have fully understood, liked or agreed with the content delivered that day – it has got me thinking.

What if everything we know about education is wrong? What if my love for technology has blinded my ability to think critically about its purpose and value? What if the process in which we support professional learning and development is all wrong? What if? What if?! If everything is wrong, who is right and why?

This is where ‘The Wrong Journey’ begins. As mentioned in the About Me section, this journey is inspired by a range of authors, provocateurs and edu-personalities who have led a call to action. A call to challenge my thinking. To scratch at the surface of my beliefs and see if they hold true. Let’s see where it takes me…