Archives For edtech

 

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With the announcement of this year’s Pupil Premium Awards finalists this week, it’s been wonderful to see all the different ways this funding can have a real impact on a student’s life. We’d like to say a big well done to all the schools who have been shortlisted! You can see the list here.

Inspired by the creativity of teachers, we wanted to share with you how some schools have put Pupil Premium to work:

  • Buying PE kit and a pair of trainers for a student to enable her to take part in after-school sports clubs
  • Free breakfast club to make sure children would start the day with healthy, full stomachs
  • Lending a bike to a student who was always late to enable him to get into school on time

 

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We’d love to hear your stories and ideas on how Pupil Premium can be used to make a difference in a pupil’s life in the comments below!

P.S. Did you know that Pupil Premium funding can be used to buy DoodleMaths licenses for your school?

There’s always a buzz word, and it the world of education technology at the moment it is probably adaptive. But what does this mean, and how does an adaptive product differ from a product that personalises?

pəːs(ə)n(ə)lʌɪz/
verb: personalise
design or produce (something) to meet someone’s individual requirements.

We personalise things ourselves by making them individual to us. Most products in edtech that claim to be personalised do so through allowing choice: as well as choosing motivational features such as avatars (fairly standard these days) you may also make choices about the work that you do. Alternatively, tasks might be selected by a teacher or a parent, either in the app or website itself or remotely through a dashboard.

əˈdapt
verb: adapt
1. make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.
2. become adjusted to new conditions.

For an edtech product to adapt to a new purpose or new conditions, first it is necessary to assess or measure what those conditions are. Learning systems that are adaptive will incorporate three elements:

  1. data collection on existing progress
    b. analysis of data, leading to
    c. adaptations in the child’s work program.

Easiest here to use DoodleMaths as an example:

  1. aside from the initial assessment, the following data is collected for every child for every question answered: time taken, attempts taken, and date stamp.
    b. this is then analysed to gain an understanding of both the child’s progress and also the population as a whole (as a basis for comparison)
    c. the work program is adapted in three ways: level (on a general basis, are the questions too difficult, too hard, or just right for the child?); strengths and weaknesses (e.g. what are they finding difficult? Do we need to remediate here? – if yes, add it into the work program); pace of learning (e.g. if they found the last topic easy, let’s crack on, but if it’s tricky, let’s stick with it until they’ve mastered it).

There are other ways a program can adapt, too, for example, confidence level (some children are disheartened getting lots wrong, others can cope) or learning style (some children will exhibit more success with questions delivered in particular styles).

In the future, it will even be possible to adapt according to misconceptions: if a child consistently believes that a negative multiplied by a negative is a negative, for example, a really smart system will be able to detect this, adapt, and deliver the correct lesson to address this misconception.

So personalised and adaptive mean very different things: personalising is done by the user, usually at the start of using a product; adapting is done on an ongoing basis by the product itself. You might say that an adaptive product is aspiring to make decisions on an individual basis in a way that a good tutor might. Most edtech products have some kind of personalisation feature, but very few are truly adaptive.

The creators of DoodleMaths – explain what to look for when choosing an educational app for your school.

The last time we looked, there were 20,000 maths apps available for UK schools to choose from. And that’s just maths! How on earth do you even begin to wade through a list that large and choose the right product for your students? It’s an important decision too, that could make a big difference – positively or negatively – to their confidence and your school results.

As maths teachers ourselves, we developed DoodleMaths because we recognised that a well-designed app could complement the whole-class learning structure our children encounter in school. We suggest you consider the following criteria when assessing an app or learning programme for your school:

  • Is it personalized?
  • Does it reflect the National Curriculum or is it just a game?
  • Does it offer too much choice?
  • Does it come recommended?
  • Does it have an easy-to-use teacher interface?
  • Is it cost effective?

Is it personalized?

One of the benefits of using technology to help children learn is that good apps can constantly adapt to suit your child’s competencies and areas of difficulty, not just at a broad level but on a truly personalized basis. If the app doesn’t do this, you might as well just buy a textbook.

Does it reflect the National Curriculum or is it just a game?

It depends what you want the app for, but a well-designed product will engage children as they learn, and it makes sense for the learning programme to reflect what’s being covered at school.

Does it offer too much choice?

Children don’t necessarily choose what’s best for them (hmmm, broccoli or ice-cream?), especially when it comes to their education. And if they’re struggling with a subject they’re even more likely to avoid it. So choose an app that restricts choice and gently encourages your child to repeat tasks they find difficult till they’ve grasped them.

What does it cost?

There are lots of free apps out there but you really do get what you pay for. Equally, shop around, you don’t need to spend heaps.

Does it come recommended?

We would say this but DoodleMaths is the UK’s top-selling primary maths app for a reason: it works! It’s not always easy to figure out which app might suit your child, so ask other schools and parents for their recommendations, and read the reviews on the App Store to get some tips.

To find out more about DoodleMaths, visit out our website DoodleMaths.com, check us out on the App Store or email us, hello@doodlemaths.co.uk. We’re on Twitter and Facebook too!

Early in August, we took part in a #BETTchat on Twitter which posed a fascinating question: Is Education Technology too expensive to work?

Given our upcoming appearance on the ICT for Education conference in Newcastle, we thought it might be worth revisiting the topic.

As the chat quickly revealed, the cost of buying a bunch of apps for students to use in the classroom is the smallest item on the ICT budget of a school. (Indeed, the apps themselves range in price, but it’s rarely enough to break bank.) Nor is the cost of acquiring hardware necessarily the biggest barrier to implementing #EdTech, although not all schools can necessarily take part in volume purchase programmes like those on offer by Apple. Aside from capital expenditure, the two biggest items on the ICT budget of a school are maintenance and training costs.

While we agree that EdTech can be financially demanding, though, we strongly believe it’s a profitable long-term investment, for schools and teachers alike. These are our top reasons why:

  • Technology, especially interactive apps, can cater to a variety of learning styles.
  • Big data (like the performance of a student over time) can be harnessed to create individualised work programmes at minimum cost for the teacher, as it saves them time and effort.
  • Interactive apps increase student engagement and encourage them to take ownership of their learning.
  • Technology is an integral part of students’ lives – it makes sense to bring it into the classroom as well.
  • Teachers get the most out of their face-to-face interactions with students when the software helps them target and address the most important areas of weakness.
  • Teachers become more confident in the classroom.
  • Teachers also become more tech-savvy the more they use EdTech, so they are able to identify the kinds of apps that would be most effective in the classroom.
  • Student performance improves.

None of these changes can happen overnight – both students and teachers need time to learn how to use a piece of technology and integrate it in lessons. All of it requires time and patience, which can be difficult if a school needs to meet criteria or is preparing for nation-wide exams. But as educators we need to consider the long-term effects of our policies. Learning more about EdTech and giving teachers time to get comfortable with using it can well prove to be the winning factor for a school.  

Choice ≠ Autonomy

August 28, 2014 — 1 Comment

[Gail, our Sales Manager, writes her first blog on why giving students choice does not make them autonomous learners.]

It’s a long held belief that giving students choices makes them autonomous learners. Having talked to a school today about the needs of their learners, I’d like to clarify this.

This school teacher had been using the market-leader for ICT-based maths resources for a number of years. He had come to the conclusion that, far from creating autonomous learners, too much choice was doing the opposite.

The software he was using (and 24% of schools in the UK use it) either gives children a choice of games and activities to do, else the teacher can set them work directly. In the first instance, they either do not know what to choose, or default to the easiest choice. In the second instance they are reliant on the teacher.

In using DoodleMaths, children are restricted to two choices: reinforce what has recently been learnt, or learn something new (which is relevant to their individual needs). Children are autonomous because they can choose to do their maths at any time, as much as they like, and see visible improvements in their DoodleMaths Age. The can work independently on content that is exactly matched to their needs. To expect a 7 to 11 year-old to be autonomous to the extent that they know their own learning needs is to expect too much – to the detriment of their progress.

So in future, when challenged that the prescriptive nature of DoodleMaths restricts student autonomy, my answer is simple: autonomy means independence, but independence does not necessarily imply choice – as any parent will know!

Gail

P.S. If you’d like to create a classroom of autonomous, independent learners, email me direct on gail@ezeducation.co.uk or the rest of the team at hello@doodlemaths.co.uk and we will set you up with a school trial.

According to this article, using iPads in schools is still a challenge. There are a variety of reasons for that, but one which really stood out to us was the fact that teachers who weren’t used to new technology felt like they would never be able to implement it in the classrooms.

It’s quite the ironic twist – one of the main purposes of new technology is to make life easier for everyone, not give even more privilege to a select audience.

And technologies do make life easier – according to this infographic on the flipped classroom model, enhancing lessons with the use of various multimedia tools has helped students and teachers tremendously. And, something which is relevant for this post, it reports that nearly a half of the teachers using the tool have had more than 16 years of experience in classrooms.

On the whole, the article presents a very positive vision of technologies in the classroom – as a supplement, they can add a lot of value to students’ experience. But how can we empower teachers to use them more?

The first article we link already has a suggestion – meetings where teachers from all levels of expertise talk about their experience and bring new questions to the table. Indeed, we should aim to make technologies accessible and usable by the majority, not just the IT specialists.

To build up on that, though, we propose that you also bring your students’ voices to the table – see how they work best, how they learn best, and try to identify the thing that engages them the most.

After all, it’s not about having the latest fancy innovation in your classroom, or the shiniest new app. It’s about finding the thing that works for everyone and building up on it systematically until you find a successful, flexible process.

Chilman-®Mark Wood 040First things first, we are very happy that SETsquared has been named number one in Europe by the University Business Incubator Index, and second in the world. We’ve only been part of it for six months, but we share the pride of many others and hope that this award will be the first of many.

On a bigger scale, it’s events like this that remind us that innovation is important and well-appreciated. Taking something from an idea to a widely implemented tool is not a simple feat, but the key is to persevere, and think about all the worth in what you are doing.

Which brings us to today’s topic – technology in the classroom, and why it’s important to innovate and look for new ways of delivering lessons.

Indeed, the classroom is likely one of the most difficult places to bring innovation, because of the barriers are so high: budget constraints, time constraints, pressures to perform, and the understandable chaos that every change in the lesson plan brings, to name a few. We all have, I think, our own stories to tell about how we wanted to try out something new in class, but couldn’t, because of something outside of our control.

But today, let’s talk instead about all the good things that innovation in the classroom brings, and why it’s worth the effort of pursuing.

  1. We learn best when we are presented with problems to solve. Not even the greatest innovators came up with an idea from the ether. Usually, they started out some sort of problem, or with an existing process that could have been improved. James Dyson wanted a solution to the problem of disposable Hoover bags. He continues to innovate to this day. A new element in the lesson plan could seem like a lot of hassle, but it introduces a new element which would pique students’ interest.

    Speaking of which…

  2. New problems means new ways of solving them. Creative thinking isn’t something that should be taught in universities, or in computing classes. Indeed, children are some of the most creative thinkers there are – just show them a Rorschach drawing and watch the fireworks. What we need to do is encourage that creative thinking in the classroom. Why not by presenting them with something new to work with.
  3. Creative Thinking breeds Independence breeds Confidence. Which usually breeds Leadership. Again, independent learning is not just a special skill to learn at University. (Indeed, by some bizarre coincidence, quite a lot of great innovators and leaders were really poor students.) A lot of the time, we shelve great ideas because we lack the confidence to share them with the world. Whether they bank or not is a different question entirely – trying is what’s most important.

It’s amazing, considering the impact, what a payoff a change could have to a person’s life. There is a lot of discussion about the curriculum at schools, with some very good arguments about what should be taught and whether it can be taught; but we would like to also put the question of how the content can be delivered, because sometimes the how makes all the difference between the should and the can.